A day in the life of a Bernie precinct captain

Samantha Selfie
Samantha Van Hoozer enjoyed her experience as a precinct captain for Bernie Sanders during the Nevada caucus.

This year I signed up to be a Precinct Captain for Bernie Sanders. Since I am 19 years old, it is my first year of being eligible to participate in the Presidential nomination process. I have considered myself a strong Democrat for the past eight years, but Bernie Sanders’ message really resonated with me and caused me to want to be involved and help with the caucus as much as I could.

The whole process intimidated me at first. I had been trained in my role as a precinct captain at the Bernie Sanders campaign office, but I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect once I arrived at my caucus location. The Democratic caucus is a complicated process, so I ran through all of the different scenarios in my head as a precinct captain that I might have to deal with.

When I arrived at the room that was designated for my precinct in Double Diamond Elementary School, I set up Bernie Sanders campaign signs outside the room to attract the attention of voters and designate an area for the Sanders supporters to gather. I was given signs, buttons, a packet for conducting the caucus and a purple Bernie Sanders precinct captain t-shirt in my precinct captain kit at the campaign office the day before.

Once everything had been set up I wandered outside to chat with other Bernie Sanders precinct captains while we waited for the voters to arrive. I had a wonderful time discussing Sanders’ policies with them, and sharing a general camaraderie over the fact that we were all part of his campaign and were sharing a special experience.

As my caucus participants arrived I passed out buttons to the Bernie Sanders supporters. I had been canvassing for Sanders in my neighborhood the weekend before, and I was ecstatic to see that a few of the people I had talked to about the caucus had shown up to support Bernie Sanders. When I was canvassing it didn’t really feel that I was making much of a difference. A lot of people weren’t home, few were supporters of Sanders, and some even refused to talk to me. Actually seeing that I had made a difference and convinced some people to come caucus for Bernie Sanders who wouldn’t have otherwise made the whole canvassing experience worth it.

In my precinct it was interesting to see that a precinct captain for Hillary Clinton never showed. I wondered if I should do anything about it, so I checked with other precinct captains and was relieved when they informed me there were other rooms where there wasn’t a captain for either Clinton’s or Sanders’ sides as well. As long as the voters were able to organize themselves it wasn’t an issue.

However, it did mean that I had to answer the general questions for everyone in the room without the help of other captains. The only questions that people ended up asking were: when will the caucus be over? And, how does the caucus process work? It turned out that I was able to handle being in charge of the room by myself with no issues.

I was expecting to get the chance to discuss Bernie Sander’s policies with voters and get into a few debates, but was disappointed when none of that happened. The people in my precinct had solidly made up their minds for either Clinton or Sanders and didn’t need to be convinced. There was one undetermined voter, but right before the counting started she decided on Sanders in order to make the process go faster so we wouldn’t have to do a second count.

Once the 28 voters in the room had been counted, the precinct chair arrived and called the caucus to order. After the formalities had been dispensed with, the chair instructed the voters in the room to align with their candidates of choice. The Sanders supporters came to my side of the room and the Clinton supporters went to the other.

After the count was complete, there were 15 Sanders supporters and 13 Clinton supporters in the room. The chair counted up these numbers and awarded the two delegates designated for our precinct. Bernie Sanders received one delegate and Hillary Clinton received one delegate. The vote was split 50/50. As the Bernie Sanders precinct captain I witnessed the chair counting up the votes to make sure no mistakes had been made. Everything went smoothly and I submitted my results to the Bernie Sanders campaign headquarters while the chair reported the results to the Democratic Party headquarters. The voters filed out and our caucus was finished.

Nearby rooms had many more voters in them, and it seemed like the captains in those precincts had a more difficult experience than I had. Some rooms had 70 or more voters in them while mine only had 28. As a first time caucus participant and precinct captain I was happy that my precinct had a smaller turnout. It made the process less stressful and allowed the counting to go faster as well.

Reflecting on the experience as a whole I realized that I had really enjoyed the process. It feels good to be politically active and participate in our democracy knowing that there are people all over the world who don’t get the chance.

Even though the two sides were divided over whom they were supporting, either Clinton or Sanders, there was a feeling of solidarity that we were all Democrats. In the end I won’t be devastated if Bernie Sanders doesn’t win the nomination, because Hillary Clinton is still a stellar option as a Democrat. Of course I would prefer Bernie Sanders, but the most important result to me is that a Democrat ends up in the White House. Many of the other supporters whom I talked to during the caucus felt the same way.

The ideology of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton isn’t hugely different, and the main concern for most of us is that the eventual Democratic Party nominee wins the White House.

To round off the experience, as I was walking to the journalism building on the UNR campus to write this story I had a fellow university student stop me because he had noticed my Bernie Sanders precinct captain t-shirt. He thanked me for volunteering and expressed how appreciative he was that I had stepped up to help with Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

To have that validation from a fellow student really made me feel that I had made a difference helping with this caucus and supporting Sanders’ ideology and all that he stands for.

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