When we arrived at Perkins Elementary School at 6:35PM, we quickly realized it would be an exciting caucus night. The registration line stretched far outside the gym where the vote was set to occur, stretching down the hall, out the school’s main doors, and down the sidewalk.
The gym was clearly too small to comfortably fit all the caucus-goers. The registration desks stood under one of the basketball hoops, while tables filled with Clinton, Sanders, and O’Malley paraphernalia were positioned along the sidelines. Eager campaign staffers distributed stickers and signs. The median age of the group hovered somewhere around 50, with a sizable elderly population.
The Precinct Chair (the individual in charge of counting the votes and submitting the results) became visibly distressed as the gym swelled with voters, unsure how to handle the shortsighted venue choice. With about half the voters signed in and standing wherever there was open space, he made a bold announcement he knew would be met with groans and frustration: all voters already signed-in were to go to the parking lot as registration continued inside. It was 34 degrees, and many voters had brought their young children with them. The caucus was set to start at 7:00PM but all knew the process wouldn’t be getting underway until much later.
While registration continued inside, campaign staffers struggled to keep supporters enthused about caucusing. If they left, their votes wouldn’t be counted. A Clinton campaign staffer said she was particularly concerned about early departures since the older members of the Clinton crowd would be less willing to stand around in the cold than Sanders’ younger group. Some elderly voters were sent back inside to sit down.
The Clinton and Sanders supporters had grouped together at opposite ends of the parking lot. Clinton staffers led cheers of “we believe that we will win” and “madam president,” while the Sanders supporters chanted “feel the Bern.” O’Malley’s meager group stood mostly in silence.