Political parties get back to their caucus roots

The precinct caucus. It’s the root of American politics where decisions can be made that can affect not only neighborhoods, but the state and nation. And while presidential election year caucuses get a lot of attention, there’s still some weight behind off-year caucuses such as the ones planned in the upcoming days around Kitsap County.

“People are becoming more aware of what’s going on and they’re willing to get more involved to become heard,” said Matt Cleverly, chairman of the Kitsap County Republican Party. “And precinct caucuses are good for people who are not political junkies to have their voices heard in a way that goes up the chain.”

Now in her 30th year of attending caucuses, Kitsap County Democrats chairwoman Sharon Peterson said she’s seen an increase in grassroots participation recently. “It’s always fun to get together and meet your neighbors and they’re important so people turn out,” she said.

The Democrats’ precinct caucuses are planned for today, followed by the GOP caucuses on Tuesday, March 7. (See accompanying list of caucus sites for locations.) These are all pooled events where several precincts come together in one location although all the events are at the same time.

Each caucus is only open to party members since the main job is to elect delegates to the county conventions, choose candidates for the primary ballot and begin the development of the political platform. The GOP is requiring everyone to show their voter registration card as well as photo identification as proof of party membership. The Dems aren’t requiring ID, but everyone is required to register at the door and affirm their party membership if they want to have a vote. All caucus voters need to be registered voters and be old enough to vote in the Nov. 7 general election.

The county chairs already have a good idea of what will be discussed with both citing growth management issues, the Nascar track proposal and county, state and national issues.

“We’re doing a survey of important issues for the state, county and their neighborhoods, not just those issues coming down from the state party,” Cleverly said.

“Everyone gets a chance to input their concerns and form a platform up or down,” Peterson said.

On candidate selections, the choices are thin this far out from the primary election. Only a pair of races — the Central Kitsap county commissioner seat for the GOP and the sheriff’s race for the Dems — have more than one party candidate vying for the job. “But you never know what could happen as the time grows closer,” Cleverly said.

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