The national spotlight shined on Idaho last Tuesday, as caucus planners saw turnout estimates begin to swell to record levels.
With many caucus locations at capacity, the day ended with nearly 24,000 people caucusing statewide. The previous record was 2008, with 21,000.
The question of the day asked repeatedly by media everywhere: What’s driving all of this turnout?
The answer is three-fold;
- Idaho Democrats have been growing and getting stronger. We have focused on building our local parties, which are closest to the people. That work has grown the base of folks who are talking to their neighbors about issues that matter. When people get a moment to block out the white noise of GOP propaganda and 24-hours of rightwing, shout-shows, they see that Idaho Democrats put communities, families, workers, and businesses first. When people learn what Idaho Democrats stand for, they stand with us.
- Both the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton campaigns worked hard in Idaho. For a couple of months, they did that grassroots work that gets overlooked by the press. They made phone calls, they visited houses, they activated volunteers. Both campaigns worked very hard and are to be commended for what they did.
- Bernie Sanders held rallies twice in four days before the election. That revved up the crowds. As a side note: when Bernie Sanders visited Idaho Falls, more than 3,200 people showed up for him. When former GOP candidate Marco Rubio visited, 700 people showed up for him. GOP candidate Ted Cruz drew 3,000 to a rally in Coeur d’Alene. But Sanders eclipsed that number with his 7,000 strong rally in Boise.
To see full results of Tuesday’s primary elections: Click here.
Tuesday was wonderful. That kind of energy can translate into real, positive change for Idaho. We are working with local parties to help welcome and engage new voters who want to make a better future for Idaho and our world.
That said, the Idaho Democratic Party have heard from many folks who wanted to participate but could not do so due to work, family and travel conflicts. Others were unable to wait in lines that, in some locations, were long. (It’s worth noting that the press reported great cheer and enthusiasm from folks waiting in line in Ada County … the common theme, “It’s awesome to see all these Idaho Democrats!”)
As for the lines in some places, the IDP had a reservation system in place to help our volunteer army estimate crowd sizes. Just a couple weeks before the caucuses, best estimates showed crowds slightly below 2008 levels. As the estimates appeared to grow, the week before the election had Ada County, Kootenai, Bannock adding locations. The reservation system worked up to a point: In the last day, 10,000 people signed up to caucus. Frankly, that’s not a reservation–that’s barely a warning. With numbers swelling by 30 percent in the last 24 hours, there was very little organizers could do to adjust. Understand, counties have been planning caucuses since last July. And, in the final analysis, the hundreds of volunteers pulled off a successful event in the face of impressive last-minute challenges.
As for folks who wanted to participate, but could not, Idaho Democrats are already reviewing the results of the election and proposing solutions. One popular solution is to engage in the Idaho primary election. That is a solution that IDP’s elected leadership is seriously considering.