The North Carolina Democratic caucuses are being held today, and I thought, being a freshly minted U.S. citizen, I'd go see if I could vote. Now, I'm a registered independent (who can prove it, unlike Bill O'Reilly), so I wasn't sure I could vote there.
Turns out I couldn't. I thought maybe I could because independents can vote in the Democratic primaries here in NC (Republicans may be able to as well - I know they can in Georgia - a situation I'll continue to find deplorable until someone can explain to me why it should work that way). Today's caucuses, however, are for dems only. Fair enough.
But why are we having caucuses instead of primaries anyway? Well, basically because battles over redistricting NC dragged on for so long, we couldn't complete the process in time to have the primaries in May--they've been bumped to June, which won't allow time to pick delegates for the national convention which occurs a week later in June. The June primaries will no longer include the presidential candidates, just the congressional, statewide and legislative offices.
Now, turnouts for caucuses are notoriously lousy. 5-7 percent I heard yesterday on NPR. The Charlotte Observer reports an expected 5 percent turnout here. The party only printed 220,000 ballots. It's a historic day nonetheless, since it's the first time NC's ever had to resort to caucuses. History aside, I'm disappointed. I haven't followed the redistricting battles, but I am familiar with what's been going on in Texas and Florida and I find it reprehensible.
Anyway, I'd hoped to go and give Dennis Kucinich a vote to protest the fact that Kerry voted for the war in Iraq. So I went, I asked questions, I learned a little. I told the ladies behind the tables I was a first-time voter (in the U.S. anyway: I voted once in Australia as a teen before moving here) and recently became a citizen. They helpfully pointed out another station where I could go and change my party affiliation.
"No thanks," I said, "I think I'll stay independent for a while. But I definitely won't be voting for Bush in November."
The small group of women spontaneously hooted and broke into applause.