Taking One for Democracy

“Some people have started feeling a little uncomfortable with the amount of people here so we want to let you know that you can fill out your caucus sheet and hand it in early if you’d like to go home.”

That should give you some clue as to the size of the crowd that turned out for the Portland, Maine democratic caucus yesterday. Political enthusiasm went hand in hand with claustrophobia for the nearly six-hour caucus, all while a snow storm covered the streets and all of the people lined up outside just to get in the building. For six hours! Amazing!

I’m not especially politically minded (aside from knowing right from wrong and wanting geo to get the hell out of office already) and I wasn’t even all that excited to go to this, my first ever caucus. But when we got to Portland High School (baby and all) and saw the lines of people (not annoyed people, excited, high-energy people) all lining up to do a good thing, I was all too glad I came.

Registration Lines at Portland Caucus

We got really lucky and came in the back door which allowed us to merge in near the front of the already-registered-just-need-to-get-my-form line. My apologies to all who didn’t know about that entrance and ended up waiting in extremely long lines. We totally cut in front of you.

Long Lines and man making the sign of the cross

No matter how long the wait, line confusion reigned supreme (“what if you’re already registered?” “is this the line for switching parties?”) and unfortunately the city was somewhat ill-prepared, which wasn’t surprising. We got through our line pretty quickly only to be told that we weren’t on the list (even though we’d called city hall in advance to make sure we were all set…) so we needed to wait in a second line for people-who-are-registered-but-can’t-be-found. Our records came right up on their computers which lead us to wonder why on earth the other line was clearly using old lists.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the third line which was full of people switching parties and people registering for the first time ever. Practically every face in that line was young and smiling. This was the first time that 17-year-olds who would be turning 18 by election day were allowed to register to vote in the caucus. The youthful enthusiasm was infectious! I was so proud.

Once we cleared the lines, we headed into the gym to grab seats for the speeches. Dash was already nearing naptime and not really interested in sitting down and waiting. (Kids. Go figure.) He ended up getting a lot of exercise walking all around and managed plenty of media attention as well. Photos and news footage! What a star.

Dash winds down with dad

It was at about 4pm (roughly two hours in) that they made the announcement about crowd size and allowed folks to vote and skedaddle. It was getting pretty crowded and we had friends who were waiting to get in and called us to say that the line still was wrapped around the building and down a block or two. In the snow. In the dark.

Democratic caucus crowd portland maine

Still waiting for speeches to start, met the governor of Massachusetts (made dorky joke about being underage but got in with a fake I.D. that got huge laughs. yes, that’s how i impress politicians), met lots of people as you’re wont to do with a cute young wandering baby. Ate very sticky orange and very crumbly muffin. Wished I had brought gallons of water. Was very grateful to find Granny and Nana who watched Dash for a few. Two great speeches (Gov. Patrick and Tom Allen) and two so-so speeches (rep. Meeks and Tom Ledue) and then those of us who stuck around (I’d estimate 97.9%) were sent off to separate caucus rooms to do our job.

The lines of people who still had not registered were still wrapped around the building. So proud of Portland!

We’re four hours (6pm) in and still there was more waiting. Official word was that if we wanted to stay and be counted for the delegate vote, we had to stick around until all the people got through the lines, which would probably be another hour. If Neil and I were going to leave early, we would have left already. We were in for the long haul. Really wishing the city had ordered some pizza though. mmm… hungry.

Things kind of fell apart at this stage. There were several people (in charge of our group) who kind of knew what they were supposed to do but had to keep checking with others. There was some revolt within the group that bordered on rude but did eventually lead to us voting early and getting out of there. Thank you!

Results:: 2:1 Obama and the state was his.

Time when we got in the car to go home with a baby who hadn’t slept or even eaten properly since 1pm?

Portland Maine Caucus Ends!

Time enough for take-out pizza, some tv (what was up with the dance interpretation set to beatles songs on the Grammys?), and then off to early and eagerly anticipated bed.

3 Responses to “Taking One for Democracy”

  1. Robyn Says:

    This is amazing! I love Maine!

  2. meg Says:

    yay! thanks for posting these photos – i was out-of-town and i’m so sorry i missed it (but happy with the outcome).

  3. Granny & Nana Says:

    It was exciting and very, very long. Great speeches aside, the best part was spending some time with Dash (and the two of you too!) It was inspiring to see all the young and new-to-caucus people. Go Portland, go Obama!