POSTED: 20 JANUARY 2008 - 7:00am HST

Caucusing with aloha

by Jon Letman on 20 February 2008

The warnings couldn't have been more bleak: long lines unprecedented turn outs, you may have to wait... possibly up to an hour.

Terrified at the notion of standing in line, doing nothing, I decided to go to my caucus site a little early and it was a good thing I did. When I reached my designated caucus site, the Hawaii Government Employee Association office about six minutes drive from my home, a line of a hundred or more people snaked through the parking lot and into the street. I took my place in line, clutching my form that would serve to officially register me with the Democratic Party of Hawaii (required to participate in the caucus) and looked around.

It was a lovely February evening-- a velvet blue sky with a silver full moon and the crowd wore loose shorts, t-shirts and slippas (beach sandals). No shoes needed and certainly not the clothing they wore in Wisconsin earlier in the day when Obama was handed Victory #9.

What I saw was the diversity that is characterizing the Obama campaign but it looked no different from any other public crowd in Hawaii-- diverse. A crowd in Hawaii is, by nature, a crowd of many different people who live together in the land of Aloha. So for these people to support Obama (whose name, perhaps somewhat encouragingly sounds very close to the Hawaiian word for family - "ohana"), apparently now with three times more votes than were cast for Mrs. Clinton, is no surprise.

What did surprise me, just a bit, was that while I saw countless Obama stickers, placards, badges and t-shirts from those in line, I did not see a single anything with the word "Hillary." Not one. Nothing.

As I stood in line, I listened people recall how the same caucus site in 2004 only had 20 people turn out-- two-zero. On this night, by 6:30 p.m. at the time the caucus process was scheduled to begin, there were probably three hundred voters with more streaming up by the minute.

It was obvious the Democratic Party of Hawaii caucus organizers were overwhelmed by the numbers and both their organization (or lack thereof) and the site itself were woefully inadequate for the evening's events. There were two lines to stand in- one was for people with names beginning with A - K, the other L - Z, or was that A - M, or K - Z?

Oops. Sorry, no- you need to be over there.

People were told to switch lines, go over there. Stand here. Go with her, no, not here. People were mostly in good spirits, but there were a few people pissed off.

I had to switch lines, but was able to stay near the front as I looked out and saw that a few hundred was now probably approaching four, maybe five hundred and growing.

I saw some of my neighbors, saw lots of familiar faces and talked a bit with my buddy Ray, a local-born Filipino-Sicilian activist who hates war and injustice and speaks out very vocally against the American Imperialist Military Machine. He and I already exchanged emails about Obama- I arguing that while Obama wasn't the perfect candidate, he was the closest thing we'd get, Ray arguing that Obama was part of the status quo.

In Ray's words: "Obama has no intention of lessening US imperialism/militarism in the region... He says he's from Hawaii but has done exactly nothing on helping to build, organize or support he Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiians) and their soveirgnty movement."

Ray told me he wasn't an Obama supporter, but he did see the turn out for Obama as a positive step that many Americans are ready to take steps, even baby ones, in the right (that is, Left) direction. Supporting Obama meant more Americans wanted to turn to a more progressive direction and away from what we have seen under Bush. Indeed!

So, when I finally got to the front of the line (only took about 40 minutes), I was asked my street name and then my name. I handed over my soul... I mean, the form that turned me into a registered member of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and held my hand out to be stamped in red ink with the word PRIORITY.

And just like that, I became a registered Democrat.

I asked the woman who stamped my hand if I could go back to voting for Republicans when the ink washed off and she laughed.

Pardon me, I digress. It must be the Democrat in me. I was feeling a bit Pelosian, perhaps Reidian.... I felt like going out and approving a $75 billion expenditure on something I claimed not support. Yes, now I was a true Democrat!

As my first act, I went into the caucus area which was a small room that looked like it could hold three dozen people, but now had over 100. There was lots of jostling and pushing and bumping and confusion. A short local lady with a microphone was bleating something about "precinct one go with your precinct president to the back table, precinct two go with your president outside to the table." No one listened and no one seemed to know what was going on.

When I was given my PRIORITY stamp, I was also handed a thin slip of paper that had the number 15-04 on it. Wow, it must be a Secret Democratic Code, I thought. Maybe I should memorize it and eat the slip before a McCain supporter captured me. Just then, the woman with the mic that no one was listening to said something about..." muffled voice... static.... feedback... garbled words... you need to... something.. something... precinct number four at this table."

That was it- my table! That must be what the 15-04 meant. Perhaps "15" was Democrat-speak for "table." It must be a way to hide our true intentions from the GOP stooges which were certainly roaming the grounds.

I went over to table 04 and a slight girl asked my last name. I gave her my name and showed her my shiny red "PRIORITY" stamp (I felt like one of those Iraqis with the purple thumb of freedom), but she paid no notice. The girl gave me a registration pad to sign and address and then told me to wait. She never asked for any I.D., in fact, no one had at any point. I could have told them I was Tom Jones, Evel Knievel or even Barack Obama himself and no one would have batted an eye. Ok, maybe not Obama, but the others, yes.

This led me to wonder about the integrity of the process. How did the DPH know I was who I said I was? They didn't. But that is all part of the Aloha spirit. We are free and easy about this kind of thing in Hawaii... just hang loose bra'...

Several people walked around the room with plates of food, looking like they had nothing political on their minds and did not care who was to be elected for what so long as it did not affect the seat of Mayor McCheese.

More people crowded in, more unintelligible announcements were made and then the woman with the mic that no one was listening to (well, I was anyway) said, "now will the speakers give one minute's time to Hillary Clinton?" No one paid attention. Names were being called out from different directions.... Blaine Caldwell.... Liz Taniguchi..... Hannah Kotani..... Beth Liddle...

"We need your attention please!" shouted the woman with the microphone.

Some caucus goers shushed the crowd but mostly no one paid attention. A large man with a plate of fruit walked by me.

So this was caucusing? It looked like chaos.

The woman with the memo book at table 04 was calling names. I saw my name and so when she said, "John Ledman?" I raised my PRIORITY stamped hand and was given a slightly larger chit of paper than the 15-04 one.

This one had names on it... Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards... my eyes stopped at Dennis Kucinich's name and for a second I almost thought... Kucinich - the Truly Heroic American from Ohio who introduced the wonderful but unfruitful H Res 333 - articles of impeachment against Richard Bruce Cheney, U.S. Vice President.

No, Kucinich would not be president and so I chose Obama. There really was no other choice for me. I made a thick black heavy check mark by the Obama box and just to make sure, I circled his name twice. There could be no mistaking who I was caucusing for here.

I handed the paper back to the girl at the desk as people continued to jostle and push and carry plates of food around me.

"All pau?" I asked.

"Pau," she said.

And just like that, I had caucused. Was that it? I had expected something more community based in which we would break into small groups and chew the ends of pencils and debate the finer points of health care or how to end the war in Iraq. I figured there must be something more to caucusing than just standing in line and ticking a box. But that was it really.

And what happened to my precious vote? The girl with the memo pad stuck it between a sheet of folded pink paper and kept calling names. Was that the way votes are handled? What if it fell out onto the floor and someone stepped on it like a discarded candy wrapper? What if the girl looked at my vote and said, "another rookie Democrat voting for another rookie candidate? No way!" and threw it in the waste basket.

I would never know the difference. If this was a secure vote, then we may as well have held the event in my own garage with my dog Crunchy and 3-year-old son Kailash as the election officials. It wouldn't have been much different.

Well, I had completed my civic duty and cast my vote for CHANGE and HOPE. As I left, the line had grown to hundreds more who were still waiting to sign up as I did and cast their vote for the man or woman they hoped would be the next president.

As I walked back to my car, I passed three men, their images obscurred by shadows, sitting outside their room on the ground floor of the Tip Top Motel. They were drinking beer and had a small fire going. It was a beautiful winter evening and the people of Hawaii were lining up to vote but for these three, it was just another night of boozing and talking story, happily oblivious to the political mechanisms revolving around them.



POSTED: 20 JANUARY 2008 - 9:30am HST

Overwhelming Democratic Caucus

image above: A long line developed outside Kaumakani Senior Center. Photo by Juan Wilson

by Juan Wilson on 20 February 2008

There was an overwhelming turnout at the Kaumakani Senior Center that was the site for the Democratic caucus for Kauai precincts 16-4 (Eleele), 16-5 (Hanapepe), and 16-6 (Kaumakani).

Those running the caucus were too busy to properly inform those attending of procedures, and some bad decisions were made as to how to handle the unexpectedly large turnout.

To begin with, there were many who came to Kaumakani Senior Center with no idea what a caucus was. They thought they could just vote and leave as they might do at a polling place during an election.

Adding to the confusion was the fact that three separate precincts were scheduled to meet in one room no larger than a classroom. In 2004, the Hanapepe precinct met alone at the Hanapepe Recreation Center. The room there had only five balloters and was several times as large as at Kaumakani.

At 6:30pm, when the doors opened at Kaumakan, several dozen people were already in line. A bad decision at the get-go was an announcement that at first only Eleele residents would be admitted to cast ballots.

Everyone else stayed outside for almost half an hour waiting, unnecessarily, to be called. Several people abandoned the line as darkness fell and never got inside to the caucus.

image above: Confusion and anger during Eleele procedural delays. Precinct president in hat.

The Eleele attendees were subject to a long drawn out argument on procedure. The standing Democratic party precinct president insisted that precinct officers had to be elected before anyone could vote. When Kaumakani and Hanapepe residents finally realized that there were people waiting inside to process them, the Eleele precinct president tried to relocate their sign-up location to another room.

A table was set up in the gym, and several 16-5 and 16-6 residents waited there, for a quarter hour, while their precinct officials processed those who bypassed the gym.

The Eleele precinct continued to argue on procedure. People got angry. Some tried to register at the Kaumakani and Hanapepe table and were turned away. Other Eleele residents simply went home.

The Kaumakani and Hanapepe residents went through their line speedily once they realized what was going on. Those remaining Eleele residents finally elected Paul W. Craig party precinct president and began processing ballots. By that time only a handful of balloters were still present.

image above: Kaumakani - Hanapepe precinct table is orderly and calm. Photo by Juan Wilson

When I cast my ballot as a Hanapepe resident for Barack Obama, I asked the volunteer at the table about the procedural mess occurring for Eleele. He showed me his instruction sheet for the night. It specified that voting on candidates would occur before precinct officers were selected: the opposite of the sequence that Eleele followed.

In a brief period after the voting in the Hanapepe precinct, we selected officers for our next election.

Unfortunately, at least two-thirds of the Eleele residents never got to express their choice before the caucus ended.

My wife, Linda Pascatore, and I stayed at the Senior Center to witness the vote count. The final tabulation was a blowout:

Obama 4 - Clinton 4
Obama 31 - Clinton 5
Obama 8 - Clinton 4

Obama 43 - Clinton 13

The statewide spread was about 76% Obama and 24% Clinton. Better than 3:1 and much like the results we witnessed.

Reports of similar confusion in overwhelmed polling places was reported in several locations. On Oahu, my stepson phoned to say 2000 people turned out in the Diamond Head area where 500 had attended in 2004. The local Oahu TV stations reported fist fights and people standing in line still after 10:00pm.

Something big is going on in the electorate, and it is not Hillary Clinton.



POSTED: 7 JANUARY 2008 - 9:30am HST

Kauai Democratic Caucus on Feb 19th

image above: Caucus will include options between Clinton and Obama

by Juan Wilson on 7 February 2008

Attend. This is one of the few times that Hawaii's opinion on presidential politics could actually make a difference.

2008 Kauai Democratic Party Caucus

19 February 2008 at 7:00pm

Various sites:
• Precinct 14-1 at Hanalei Community Center
• Precinct 14-2 at Kilauea Neighborhood Center
• Precinct 14-3 at Anahola Homesteaders Council House
• Precinct 14-4,5,6 at Kapaa Neighborhood Center Courtyard
• Precinct 15-1,2,3,4,5 at HGEA 3213 Akahi St Lihue HI
• Precinct 15-6 at 3857 Omao Rd
• Precinct 16-1 at Koloa Library Conference Room
• Precinct 16-2,3 at Kalaheo Neighborhood Center
• Precinct 16-4,5,6 at Kaumakani Neighborhood Center
• Precinct 16-7 at Waimea Neighborhood Center
• Precinct 16-8 at Kekaha Neighborhood Center

For maps of precincts and more information, go to:

phone: 808-742-1400