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Her Story: My First Caucus!

I’ve been excited to vote since I was a seven-year-old kid watching my dad fill in little circles on a piece of paper that represented his vote. I loved feeling a part of the process by standing in the polls with my parents, waiting until I could fill in circles on my own ballot. Whether my parents knew it or not, encouraging me to accompany them to the polls instilled my sense of responsibility to vote. So on March 6, 2016 I participated in the Maine Democrat Caucus.

Maine, where I am registered to vote, has a caucus instead of a primary like many other states. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was more than sure that I wanted to attend my first chance to cast my vote.

Here’s What I Did Beforehand:

I did some basic research on the difference between a caucus and a primary, and learned a lot about the requirements and regulations of a caucus. First, I had to be a registered democrat to participate in the democratic caucus. Although I had already done this, it was helpful to know that other voters have the opportunity at the caucus site to either switch parties or register with the democratic party if they are an independent.  I also learned that a caucus is a public form of voting, all of the voters are physically divided into different rooms to be counted instead of private polls. Voters and other presenters are also allowed to give a speech about the candidate of their choice before the voting begins. With this basic knowledge, I felt ready for my first caucus. Here’s what I liked and didn’t like about the process.

What I Didn’t Like:

The process was about two and a half hours long. So, if you’re a part of a caucusing state but have a hectic schedule or are unable to make that time commitment, consider doing an absentee ballot.

Public voting in a small town is exactly what you think it is: uncomfortable. Although I got to run into some friends, I also saw a lot of people I typically choose to avoid. And, not only are you somewhat forced to say hello, you’re probably wearing a sticker or holding a sign or wearing a t-shirt or carrying a banner with your preferred candidate’s logo. YIKES.

The beginning of the caucus consists of a lot of formalities that take a good amount of time to be done correctly. Certain positions for representation have to be determined at the caucus, meaning that someone has to be nominated and elected to serve as a delegate, committee chair, etc. This particular part of the caucus seemed to drag on, and I was ready to get voting!

What I Did Like:

Most of the speeches presented by voters about their candidate were interesting, passionate, and well researched. Regardless of their favorite candidate, I was invested in listening to their stories, ideas, and opinions. Many of the speakers confessed that they hadn’t been politically active for most of their lives but decided to participate in this presidential race. This made me particularly happy, to see that citizens were performing their civic responsibility despite their lack thereof in the past. (YAAAY VOTING!!!!! Anyway…)

After my caucus experience, I hope that the state of Maine will return to a primary for the future. I believe that a primary will increase attendance, due to it’s quick and private process. Whatever your state uses, I encourage you to attend, collegiettes! Or, if the whole public voting seems daunting, use an absentee ballot. Just don’t waste your chance to use your voice!

Eimile Bowden is a senior at Emmanuel College and is the President of the Her Campus Emmanuel chapter. She is a double major in English Writing and Literature and Theatre Arts. Eimile's other hobbies include tie dying, rewatching grey's anatomy, and playing with dogs. 
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