On March 17, I served as the sergeant-at-arms of the Clayton Township Republican Caucus. Although I had participated in several planning sessions to prepare for it, the day of the caucus I was nervous for fear that I would make a mistake which would lead to the delay or the postponement of the event. In the training sessions, I learned that leading a caucus requires following specific rules, regulations and procedures as well as pains-taking attention to details.
Fortunately, our caucus went well. The room reserved was large enough to handle the crowd of 135 participants. The chairman was experienced, provided the candidatesí representatives with ample time to present their positions and, with the assistance of a competent support staff the meeting ran smoothly.
As sergeant-at-arms and as required by the rules, I closed the doors to the caucus room at 10:00 am. I didnít permit anyone to enter after that time. A dozen individuals arrived late and I refused them entry into the building. All were shocked that a timeline was being enforced. They expressed their frustration and anger at me by stating that they were unaware of the 10:00 am deadline and they were very disappointed and disillusioned with the process.
Another designated responsibility of the sergeant-at-arms is to coordinate the counting of votes for the election of delegates to the Congressional caucus, and the recommendations for the partyís platform, I selected representatives from each of the three party nominees represented - Romney, Gingrich, and Paul to assist me. Although there were only 135 voters present, I was struck by how difficult it was to count the number of hands correctly. Several times, the candidatesí representatives and I had to hold recounts because the counts differed by a few votes.
The week following the scheduled caucuses, I attended a meeting of Republicans. Other regional caucuses had problems similar to those in St. Charles County. It was reported that many participants left these caucuses angry and disillusioned with the process.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that it has been sixteen years since the Missouri Republican Party has held regional caucuses to elect delegates to the Partyís convention. In my opinion, holding party caucuses during a presidential election year was a mistake. The alternative is clear. As has been done in the recent past, utilize the local Missouri election authorities to administer a primary presidential election. These men and women are trained, experienced, have the right equipment and manpower, and their polls are open all day. Voting with them is easy and efficient.
The caucus system is fraught with problems and there is a guarantee of hard feelings and disillusionment if things donít go just right.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Lowe "Sandy" MacLean is vice chancellor emeritus, University of Missouri, St. Louis, and is active in local political and community organizations, including the Grand Order of Pachyderms (GOP), a service organization for the Republican Party.