Picking pizza as a prelude to the presidency
June 7, 2007
The decision was simple: Pick your favorite pizza topping.
Yet the way in which 32 people selected their favorite topping was about more than pizza. It served as the first dry run for a much bigger decision: Who will represent the Democratic Party in the 2008 presidential election?
Members of the Nevada State Democratic Party held a mock caucus Thursday at Grandma Hattie’s restaurant. Several other mock caucuses are scheduled in Reno, Zephyr Cove and Fernley and are open to the general public.
“The caucus is a grassroots process, very different from a primary, that is designed to get people involved,” said Jayson Sime, caucus director.
Once a caucus begins, those participating have 15 minutes to choose which candidate to support and gather together in groups. After that time, candidates with enough supporters are considered viable. Viability is determined using a formula that incorporates the number of delegates to be awarded and the number of people participating.
In the case of the mock caucus, the 32 attendees broke up into groups supporting cheese, everything, veggie, pepperoni and anchovy. The groups bolstered and shouted to try to sway supporters from other groups.
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“Come to pepperoni, it’s America’s favorite pizza. You want to support us,” Sime said, demonstrating what commonly occurs during the caucus.
In the end, cheese didn’t have enough supporters and veggie had the most.
Supporters of candidates who are not considered viable are given 15 minutes to realign with viable candidates.
The supporters of cheese split up and joined one of the other topping groups.
After the realignment, delegates are awarded based on a formula involving number of supporters, number of delegates and total location attendance.
After going through the process, the Carson City mock caucus awarded four delegates to veggie pizza, two to pepperoni pizza, one to everything pizza and one to anchovy pizza. When the totals were announced, the supporters of veggie cheered at being awarded the most delegates.
“People get scared off by the math, but really in order to participate you only need to know two things. One, what is my name, and two, where do I go,” Sime said.
Kacey Potter, 17, was among those who took part in the mock caucus.
“I’m interested in the process,” Potter said. “I plan on going to the caucus and getting high school students to go and participate.”
In the mock caucus, her allegiance was with pepperoni.
Increased attention is being paid to Nevada’s caucus because it falls on Jan. 19, between the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary, giving it a larger impact on which candidates are selected to represent both parties.
“There’s so much at stake for us to do it well because the national spotlight will be on us,” said State Democratic Party Chairwoman Jill Derby. “It’s an opportunity for us to do nothing less than turn Nevada blue.”
Each of the state’s 1,701 precincts will meet in roughly 1,000 locations – most public places. Participants will be able to register with the party on the day of the caucus.
Unlike a primary, which uses a one-person, one-vote system to determine how delegates are awarded, caucus delegates are awarded to candidates by using a formula based on the number of supporters aligned with each candidate at each location.
Delegates are assigned to precincts based on the number of registered Democrats in that precinct at the assigned date. Carson City has 25 precincts and will be allocated approximately 175 delegates to award.
The preliminary locations for the caucus meetings in Carson City are Western Nevada Community College, Carson High School, Bordewich-Bray Elementary School, St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church and Eagle Valley Middle School. Carson Middle School may also host a meeting, depending on construction at the school.
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How a caucus works:
• Anyone registered as a Democrat can participate in the caucus by showing up at the meeting place for their precinct at 11 a.m. on Jan. 19. You can register at the caucus location and participate in the caucus.
• The state party organizes, oversees and funds the caucus. The Nevada Democratic Caucus is expected to cost about $2 million.
• A chairperson will lead the meeting at each location, which will have a predetermined number of delegates, or votes, to award. Carson City has 25 precincts and will award approximately 175 delegates.
• Attendees will have 15 minutes to gather into a group of support behind a particular candidate. After that time, the chairperson will determine, using an established formula, which groups are viable (have enough support) and which are not.
• Attendees in nonviable groups are then given 15 minutes to realign with viable groups. Members of viable groups cannot change groups.
• After groups realign, delegates are awarded based on a formula that includes the number of people in a specific group, the total number of delegates to be awarded and the total number of attendees.
• Number of delegates for each candidate are reported to the state party for tabulation.
• Delegates then move to the county, then state, then national conventions where the party’s nominee is ultimately determined.