April 13 grassroots caucusesare vital for democracy | SummitDaily.com

April 13 grassroots caucusesare vital for democracy

State Sen. John Andrews and State Rep. Andrew Romanoff

Being from opposite political parties, the two of us often disagree about legislation. But we strongly agree on the value of keeping our state’s democratic process vibrant and competitive.

That’s why we encourage you to attend your local caucus on April 13.

This fall, voters in Colorado will elect 65 state representatives, 18 state senators, one U.S. senator, seven members of Congress, and, of course, a president. It all begins at the caucuses.

These neighborhood political meetings continue a tradition of grassroots government that resonates through history and across the globe.

The word caucus is borrowed by colonial settlers from such native Americans as the Iroquois, whose democracy inspired New England’s early constitutions.

Summit County’s Democratic caucuses at 7 p.m. at the Lake Dillon Best Western Lodge in Frisco and Republican caucuses at 6 p.m. at the new Community and Senior Center will have something in common with similar events making news from as far away as Dubuque and Baghdad.

The Democratic caucuses in Iowa turned the presidential race upside down. The U.S. proposal to hold political caucuses in postwar Iraq has stirred debate over how best to foster self-government there.

Each precinct has a Democratic and a Republican caucus. They meet once every other year to kick off the campaign season.

These are open-door meetings. Anyone can come. But you must be a registered voter and affiliated with a major political party in order to fully participate – to nominate and vote for someone or to be elected yourself.

Three action items, prescribed by state law, take place at a caucus meeting: (1) Electing two precinct leaders; (2) electing delegates to the county assembly; and (3) identifying participants to be election judges. Participants also recommend issue resolutions for adoption by the party’s county and state assemblies.

At those assemblies, which take place April 23, precinct delegates narrow the party’s field of candidates for the August primary and the November general election.

Representative government won’t work without strong, open, active political parties. Parties won’t work without healthy participation at the precinct level – any more than a house will stand without a solid foundation.

If you agree, please take this as a wake-up call for personal involvement in 2004. Resolve to participate in your local caucus meetings, as well as your party’s county assembly.

Understandably, many people may feel they have more important things to do on a Tuesday evening. But all of us have a duty as citizens to help make democracy work. Our state and nation need stronger voter participation to meet the big challenges of this new century.

Let’s make the April 13 caucus night a milestone of Colorado political renewal – an event worthy of admiration by the Iroquois, the Iowans and the Iraqis alike. To learn caucus locations and other details, call your local party leaders or the county clerk. Be part of the solution; be there.

State Sen. John Andrews, R-Centennial, is president of the Colorado Senate. State Rep. Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, is minority leader of the Colorado House of Representatives.

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