In Precincts 559 and 620, which also were combined for the primary, hundreds of people were still waiting in line outside the Westchase Public Library at 10:30 p.m. Poll officials did not open the doors and eventually police were called to the scene. Officers said there was never any violence, and once people were able to get inside the situation calmed down.
"Yes, I'm frustrated,"said Ophelia Ruben, a Metro bus operator caucusing for Clinton. Shortly before 10:30 p.m., she was still waiting to caucus. "I've been here since 7 p.m., and I've got to get up at 3:30 in the morning to go to work."
As the last of the people waiting to caucus filed inside the library about 11 p.m., police lingering in the parking lot said they'd heard calls over the radio for officers to help with overflow crowds at two other nearby caucus stations in West Side division alone: a church on Boone south of Wilcrest and a library in the 10000 block of South Kirkwood.
Across Harris County, from the inner loop to the suburbs, polling places were overwhelmed by unprecedented caucus attendance. At Precinct 64 in the predominantly Hispanic East End, the Democratic caucus drew a record turnout that astounded longtime participants.
More than 100 people — many of them first-time participants — waited more than an hour for the caucus to get started as the last of the primary voters cast their ballots.
Seriously, ya'll--people were waiting outside in cold until 11:00 p.m.! To participate in the electoral process! And that's after they'd already gone to the polls earlier in the day to vote. It's really kind of awesome when you think about it. And the best part is, all those people are Democrats--Texas Democrats. Stick that in your red state and smoke it.
Someone even paraphrased a West Wing quote:
"I don't know how much difference this makes in the long run, but it makes a lot of difference to me," said 31-year-old Megan House, who was hoping to be chosen a delegate for the next stage of the process. "You've got to make a stand somewhere. People are understanding that democracy is controlled by those who show up."
Hell, yeah! Say what you will about the caucus/primary system--which is, I will freely admit, totally fucked up and outdated--but there's something undeniably cool about it. It makes you feel more connected to the process somehow, like your participation actually means something. You get a strong sense of community standing around with a crowd of your neighbors, waiting to make your voices heard.
In our precinct, which is fairly overwhelmingly Republican, about 400 Democrats showed up to vote in the primary. And it looked like maybe a third of them came back at 7:00 for the caucus. Not too shabby. Since we'd dragged the munchkin along with us, we didn't stay for the actual choosing of delegates, just waited in line for about 45 minutes to sign in with our candidate of choice and then cut out and got some dinner.
I do wish, however, that the media would stop talking about "winning" states in the primaries. This isn't the electoral college, people, it's not an all-or-nothing process. But I guess complicated mathematical calculations don't make for very good news copy, do they?