By E. O'Meara
Saturday morning, I drove to the Washoe County Democratic Headquarters for a 7 a.m. meeting in which I was to get instructions on what kinds of suspicious activity to look out for at the caucus. But when I arrived, the building appeared empty and the door was locked. I stood around outside for 45 minutes until a young woman arrived (with a key). She knew nothing about my meeting, explaining that she was there as an HRC volunteer. I thought at first that those initials stood for a human rights group, until it dawned on me that they stood for Hillary Rodham Clinton.But as it turned out, the woman was also member of a human rights group that had endorsed Hillary!
Everybody in my training session was from California. When I'd gone to my initial caucus meeting on Presidents Day, I was told they only had about 60% of the precinct captains they needed from Nevada, and so had to seek out-of-state volunteers.
We all got a 35-page "NVDEMS Temporary Precinct Chair Caucus Day Guide." Our instructor had only one hour to get through two or three hours' worth of material as she outlined, with the aid of Power Point, all the steps and procedures we were to take.
At the end of this crash course, one HRC volunteer was visibly upset. "I have a degree and have had a successful career," she complained. "But this is too much to learn! What are the consequences if we don't do it right?"
"Focus on the math," the instructor soothed. "The math is the most important thing to get right."
The HRC people were assigned to Hug High School, and left by bus. Ten of us out-of-staters remained behind, including one self-described lawyer-engineer, who proceeded to perseverate for at least five minutes on repetitive math questions. (The math was in the guide and also on an enlarged worksheet for easy reference.)
The office Dems were waiting to get calls from precincts that needed help. Seven of the remainders were assigned as temporary chairs to three different locations. I joined two others on a trip to Shaw Middle School in Sparks, where 30 precincts would be caucusing. While we were waiting to get on the bus, the large screen TV in Dem HQ was tuned in to the Scalia funeral on MSNBC. So it was a relief to finally get out of there around 10:15 a.m.
We'd had been advised at our training session that it was OK to wear candidate buttons but "in your face" apparel such as shirts were forbidden. Stickers and signs also were not allowed. Still, there were multiple Clinton lawn signs right near the entrance of the school. People inside were wearing printed "Precinct Captain" T-shirts: purple for Sanders and blue for Clinton. Most shirts had buttons and stickers on them as well. I had on my black "Bernie for President" shirt underneath a vest and jacket -- and I kept it under wraps like a good student.
We met the site coordinator, who gave each of us a packet for temporary precinct captains.
Two of us went to a Spanish classroom, in which five precincts would be represented. I thought it was appropriate to get a classroom with a "Dreamers" poster on the wall outside.
Around 11:30, we got things started by selecting a permanent chair for each precinct. I went to check the entrance and noted that volunteers were using laptops and personal smartphones to sign people in. The line of caucus-goers was out the door, and the parking lot was overflowing.
It was nearly noon when three other temporary precinct captains arrived in our room, probably having done double duty signing voters in. Two more were last-minute volunteers who needed an immediate crash course about various procedures. In our room, eleven caucus-goers showed up for five precincts in order to claim one delegate per precinct, broken down as follows: 4:3; 3:1; 1:0. These groups did not have to calculate viability (majority rules when there is one delegate up for grabs.)
One of the caucus-goers said she felt uncomfortable about being forced to make her choice in public, because her precinct consisted of her small street in an isolated area. She was fearful about potential harassment from her neighbors.
In two of the caucus groups, nobody wanted to be a delegate. My own assigned precinct had zero turnout! So who knows how that delegate will be assigned, if at all?
Meanwhile, at a Reno elementary school with three-precinct coverage, my girlfriend Karli was in a group that was 4-4 with a ninth delegate up for grabs. They almost broke out the deck of cards (no coin toss in Nevada!) but a recount gave the last delegate to Sanders.
Our precincts were done before 1 p.m. and we submitted our results by either calling them in or texting them.