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FAQ: How Does a Caucus Work?

If you would like to participate in the Democratic precinct caucuses on April 15 but aren't sure how it works, here's some information.

Want to participate in the caucus but confused about where to go, or how it works? Click here for a list of . Keep reading for answers to common questions about the process:

Democrats will vote for the Democratic presidential candidates at precinct caucuses in 2012.

What is a Precinct Caucus? A Precinct Caucus is a meeting of people who live in the same voting area or precinct. The Democratic Party uses Precinct Caucuses to get grass-roots participation in nominating our presidential candidate, collect and forward resolutions to draft our County and State Platforms and assist with local party building efforts.

Democratic precinct caucuses will be held on Sunday, April 15th at 1 p.m.

Our Democratic National Convention Delegates are elected in a three “tier” process. Precinct Caucuses are the “first tier” in this process. Precinct Caucuses elect delegates and alternates to go to the “second tier”, a County Convention and a Legislative District Caucuses. In certain locations County Conventions and Legislative District Caucuses are held simultaneously. County Conventions will discuss resolutions and platform issues to be forwarded to the State Convention. In addition to these discussions, Legislative District Caucuses will elect delegates and alternates to the “third tier”, the Congressional District Caucuses. It is at the Congressional District Caucuses that National Convention Delegates are actually elected.

Will there be any significant differences between the 2012 precinct caucuses and those of previous years?

The 2012 Caucuses will be the first set of caucuses held using the new congressional and legislative district boundaries drawn following the 2010 census. These districts will likely be approved by the legislature in January or early February of 2012.

Precinct caucuses will be held based on precinct boundaries as of November 8, 2011. However, if you are elected as a delegate or alternate to a legislative district caucus, you will attend your new legislative district’s caucus. Similarly, delegates elected to congressional district caucuses will attend their new congressional district’s caucus.Who can run for delegate or alternate at the precinct caucuses?

Where will precinct caucuses convene?

Your precinct is printed on your Voter Registration Card. Your County or Legislative District Democratic Party will set a location for a Precinct Caucus for every precinct in your area. The exact location of your Precinct Caucus will be published by your County or Legislative District Party and the State Party as soon as the locations are selected. In general, Precinct Caucuses are held in accessible public facilitates within each Caucus Jurisdiction.

How are precinct caucuses run?

If there is an elected or appointed Precinct Committee Officer (PCO) in the precinct he or she will Chair the Caucus and act as a Precinct Caucus Chair (PCC). If not, then those who sign-in elect a PCC from among the group. Caucuses begin at 1pm sharp; however the election of delegates cannot begin until 1:30pm to ensure that latecomers won’t be excluded. The PCC will be provided with a script and rules along with other materials to help them conduct the caucus. The caucus rules are designed to ensure fairness and openness in the process.

Who can attend and vote at the precinct caucus?

Anybody can attend the precinct caucuses to participate in platform and resolution discussions. To be able to vote for candidates and delegates, one must attend the caucus, be a registered voter in the precinct, and sign a form declaring him or herself to be a Democrat. Persons seventeen years of age at the time of the precinct caucus but who will be eighteen years of age on or before November 6, 2012, are eligible to vote in the caucuses. Those who wish to participate but who are not currently registered to vote may register to vote at the caucus and then participate on the same day.

What if religious observance, military service, or disabilities prevent me from attending?

If any of the above conditions will prevent you from attending your precinct caucuses but would like to participate, you must obtain a Surrogate Affidavit. Forms must be received by the State Party on or before April 6, 2012, at 5:00 p.m. The State Party will forward completed surrogate affidavit forms to the proper local party organization prior to the Sunday, April 15, 2012 precinct caucuses.

What other business occurs at the Precinct Caucuses?

Resolutions brought to the Precinct Caucuses will be forwarded for consideration at the appropriate County Convention. If you would like to submit a resolution to the Precinct Caucuses, use this template.

How are the Caucuses affected by redistricting?

In early 2012 Washington State went through a process of redistricting. The Redistricting Commission came up with a plan that was then reviewed and approved by the legislature. This plan redrew the boundaries for Washington State’s congressional and legislative districts. It did not redraw the boundaries for precincts. Redrawing precinct boundaries is the responsibility of each of Washington’s 39 counties. Counties redraw these boundaries to reflect changing demographics as well as to conform with the new congressional and legislative district boundaries. Many counties will not complete this process until the middle of May.

Since our Precinct Caucuses are being held on April 15th we must use the precinct caucus boundaries that existed as of November 4. 2011. We sometimes refer to these as the “old precinct caucus boundaries.” So for the precinct caucuses on April 15th you should attend the one for your “old precinct” since, statewide, the “new precinct caucus boundaries” have not yet been determined.

Where do the Delegates and Alternates elected at the Precinct Caucuses go next?

Delegates and alternates go to two “second tier” meetings. The first is their Legislative District Caucus, which will convene on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 10:00am. The second is their County Convention, which will convene on Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 10:00am. In certain locations, County Conventions and Legislative District Caucuses are held simultaneously.

How do I become a delegate to the Democratic National Convention?

There are two possibilities for you to become a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. First, you can be elected a delegate at your congressional district caucus on Sunday, May 20, 2012. 69 delegates will be elected at these caucuses. To be considered, you must submit a statement of candidacy to State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz before Friday, May 4, 2012 at 5:00pm.

Your second opportunity to become a delegate to the Democratic National Convention is to be elected the day after the State Convention in Seattle on Sunday, June 3, 2012 by the members of the State Party Central Committee representing legislative districts. 23 delegates and 8 alternates will be selected on this date. To be considered, you must submit a statement of candidacy to State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz before Friday, May 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm.

How many delegates and alternates does Washington send to the Democratic National Convention?

Washington State sends a total of 121 delegates and 8 alternates to the Convention. 105 of the delegates and all 8 of the alternates are chosen through the caucus and convention process and 16 of the delegates are unpledged party leaders and elected officials.

*Editor's Note: Information provided by the Washington State Democrats.

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