Archive for Thursday, January 24, 2008

What you need to know before the caucuses

January 24, 2008

The most wide-open presidential nominating races in recent memory put the early February caucuses here in play, Kansas party leaders say.

Here's how you can participate:

When are the Kansas caucuses?

Kansas Democrats will caucus across the state at 6 p.m. Feb. 5, which also is referred to as Super Tuesday because 21 other states have primary elections or caucuses that day.

Kansas Republicans will caucus at 10 a.m. Feb. 9.

Where can I go to participate in the Lawrence area?

All Douglas County Republicans will caucus at South Junior High School, 2734 La. Miami County Republicans will also caucus there. Jefferson County Republicans will report to the Ozawkie American Legion, and Leavenworth County Republicans will go to the Leavenworth Riverfront Community Center.

For area Democrats, it's a little more complicated. If your state senator is Roger Pine, you go to the National Guard's Metcalf Memorial Armory, 200 Iowa. If Marci Francisco represents you in the Kansas Senate, it depends on what congressional district you live in. Most of west Lawrence (U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda's district) will report to Abe & Jake's Landing, 8 E. Sixth St. Mostly eastern Lawrence (U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore's district) needs to go to Liberty Hall, 642 Mass., to vote.

Do I need to register?

For Democrats, you can change your party affiliation if you need to at the door of the caucus. Anyone who will be 18 by Nov. 4 can participate. For Republicans, you must register as one by Jan. 25, although party leaders recommend doing it as soon as possible.

What is a caucus?

It's a format the political parties in Kansas use to choose which candidate national convention delegates will support to nominate for president. It's much more inexpensive than hosting a primary election - although, typically, fewer people participate.

The major parties caucus differently, but party leaders encourage fanfare and electioneering, or openly persuading voters to change support for their candidates.

How do they work?

Republicans: It's fairly simple. Bring a state-issued photo ID to check in. The caucus chairman allows representatives from the campaigns to give presentations, which will take one hour. Then voters will vote for one candidate by secret ballot. The votes are counted by the four congressional districts.

The candidate with the most votes per congressional district wins three delegates. Also, the overall winner statewide will gain 24 delegates.

Democrats: After registration, the caucus chairman gives participants 30 minutes to select a candidate. The chairman then determines which candidates have received 15 percent support and are, therefore, "viable."

The chairman then allows voters to reconsider their candidates.

The process isn't like a typical election. Participants can lobby for others' support.

The outcome of the caucus will determine how the 32 pledged delegates will support candidates at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

It's important for candidates to get the most votes at the Super Tuesday caucus sites because things will be weighted more heavily in their favor. Turnout at the caucus sites also is important.

Why does it matter?

With the presidential nomination process still wide open, winning each delegate could be crucial. These Kansas caucuses also are much earlier than past years, which virtually had taken the state out of play.

Which candidates have filed?

Republicans: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; former Ambassador Alan Keyes; U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona; U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

Democrats: (as of Thursday) U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York; former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina; U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois; and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is still on the ballot even though he has dropped his candidacy.

Who organizes the caucuses?

The state Republican and Democratic parties, but the county party organizers play a major role at the local level.

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