How to caucus

You show up at 6:45 for an event that is scheduled to begin at 7. The line is already 2 blocks long. In the time it takes you to lock up your bicycle, another 30 people have joined the line. You make awkward conversation with the old-time resident and undergrads (so very, very undergrad-y) in line with you. After 10 minutes of slow progress, someone comes with little slips of paper to fill out if you didn’t caucus two years earlier. Luckily, you are a mathematician, so you are carrying your backpack with a pen and notepad, so you can fill out the little slip; except that it is dark out, so it takes you another 5 minutes. Then you try to skip the line, and eventually make it in the front door at 7:05. There are 100 or so chairs set up in the room. All of them are full, and people are crammed in against the walls. At the front of the room, someone is making a speech you can’t hear. You push your way to one side of the room, where you can fill out another slip of paper for your presidential preference, which you then place in a paper bag.

If all you are interested in is making a vote for president, you now push through the crowd to get out the way you came in, and the whole thing leaves you with the impression of a less-well-organized version of the time you voted in a presidential election as a nursery school student. If, however, you want to vote in local elections (or to be a delegate to the state convention), you push your way further into the room. There is a contested race for state legislature, and at 7:15 you break into “sub-caucuses” for the two candidates: supporters of one candidate at one end of the room and supporters of the other candidate at the other. Of course, new people are still pouring in the door to vote for president. The room is not large enough (even when people fold up some of the chairs), so eventually they send the supporters of one candidate upstairs. Undecided people are supposed to sit in the middle and be talked to by members of both sides, but it’s hard to believe that anyone knows what’s going on. At some point attempts are made to take roll of the two groups; this goes on for ages. Around 7:45, you notice your colleague from the math department enter the back of the room to vote for president; he had walked past you on the sidewalk just as you were entering the building 40 minutes earlier. Around 8, they take an official count of supporters of the downstairs candidate (actually this is not true, instead they just collect a list that has been circulated and signed, and count the names on the list). Since you are a mathematician, you total the numbers on the different pages for them. Presumably, the judge then goes upstairs to take a count there. At this point, since you don’t want to be a delegate and do want to eat dinner, you leave. However, if you want to be a delegate (or to vote on party resolutions), you have to stay for an indefinite period of time.

The next day, you can find no information anywhere about how many delegates upstairs candidate and downstairs candidate received.


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