Nebraska is about to get on the national map for the Democratic Caucus, which happens on March 5th all across our state. The Republicans do not hold a caucus in Nebraska, they instead vote in a traditional primary on May 10th, 2016. As we get closer to May, we will do a similar primer for the Republican primary process in choosing a Presidential nominee.
Democratic Caucus 101
If you want to “vote” in the Democratic Caucus for either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, you must attend your local caucus event on March 5th. There was a window to “vote” via absentee, but that window is now closed. So, to have your voice heard, you must attend the caucus.
Find your caucus location: http://nebraskacaucus2016.org/where-to-caucus/
March 5, 2016, times vary for each caucus location
All local caucus meetings happen on March 5th, but they happen at different times, so make sure you get the right address and the right time!
You must be 18 years old by Nov. 8, 2016 to participate in the caucus.
You must also be a registered Democrat or register on site as a Democrat. So if you are an Independent, Republican, Green Party or other affliation in our state, you can still participate in the caucus, but you must register as a Democrat on site at the caucus location.
If you are too young or not a Dem or a member of the press, you can still observe the process.
What to Expect When You Arrive
Caucus is a fancy term for community meeting. When you arrive at the caucus location, you will be asked to sign in and testify you are a Democratic voter. If you are not a registered Democrat, you can register on the spot. This means you can change your party affiliation and/or change your address on March 5th. So do not worry if you are not currently a Democrat!
Once the meeting starts, you will hear from some people representing both candidates. Then you will be asked to go to a certain part of the room if you are with Bernie or Hillary. There will also be an option for “Uncommitted” where then people/neighbors from both campaigns will try to convince you to come over to their side. The person running the caucus then counts the people for each candidate.
Once the counts are done, there is also a process to pick delegates to the Nebraska State Democratic Convention and conduct some other formal party business. This process can seem confusing, but if you want to get more involved with party politics, you can run for one of these convention slots or leadership positions. You will then have a chance at the County and State Conventions to go for a spot at the National Convention.
The National Convention for both Democrats and Republicans is big event that happens once every 4 years where you see people wear funny hats, lots of flag clothing and listen to speeches from rising stars, elected officials and ordinary citizens! The National Convention is where each party also decides on their platform—which is a list of principles and policy positions—on issues that steer the party over the next four years. If a nomination for President is contested, the National Convention is where it gets decided in what is often described as a “floor fight.”
The National Democratic Convention is in Philly, home of cheesteaks and the Liberty Bell, on July 25-28, 2016: http://www.phldnc.com
If you are a political geek and want the bylaws that govern the caucus process, here you go: http://nebraskacaucus2016.org/2016CaucusRules_v.4-amended.pdf
What about the Primary on May 10th?
Even though there is a statewide primary on May 10th, the Nebraska impact on the Democratic Presidential primary all takes places on March 5th. Now, you still need to go to your polling location on May 10th to vote because lots of other candidates for State Senate, City Council, Public Power and other down ballot races are on the primary ballots. So, in Presidential years, for Democrats, you have to engage in two primary processes. But, on the bright side, its two more times to feel super awesome about engaging in Democracy!
The Nebraska Democratic Party has a great website up to answer all your questions with FAQ pages and fun videos: http://nebraskacaucus2016.org