Democracy was in action in Washington State on March 26, as more than 230,000 caucusgoers gathered in 500 locations across the state to allocate delegates to the Democratic candidates.
Nathan Eckstein Middle School, located on the border of the Wedgwood and Bryant neighborhoods in Seattle, was one of the many Washington caucus sites where hundreds of people came to exercise their democratic right to chose a presidential candidate.
Activities started at 10 a.m. Caucusgoers were greeted at the door by caucus leaders. Precinct captains shared their support for their candidate of choice with incoming participants, just the beginning of many attempts to sway undecided attendees.
For several residents, attending the caucus was a family affair. Many brought their young children to the event to teach them about the democratic process at an early age. If they were too young to understand, parents just wanted their kids to be a part of the grassroots effort.
The venue also had parents and their teenage children coming to caucus together for the first time. Washington State law allows 17-year-olds who will be 18 on or before the general election are to caucus.
The majority of caucusgoers at the venue were white. This is not unusual for Seattle, which was about 70.4 percent white in 2014 according to Census Bureau data.
At a brief meeting with caucus and party leaders in the school's auditorium, a show of hands revealed that most of the participants were first-time caucusgoers.
For some this was due to their support for Bernie Sanders. A few caucusgoers said they would not have attended if the self-described democratic socialist was not running. These Sanders supporters were interested in the senator's policies as part of a "political revolution."
The caucusgoers were next divided into rooms within the school by precinct. In these small groups, attendees turned in caucus forms marked for their candidate of choice. After the first round of voting, Sanders and Clinton supporters were allowed to speak up for their candidate in an attempt to sway undecided voters to their side.
Those in favor of Sanders spoke mainly on the senator's policies on their top issues, ranging from college affordability to GMOs. Clinton supporters articulated that the former secretary of state would be the most practical candidate and the most effective president, due to her experience with foreign policy and Congress.
Caucusgoers were then allowed to switch sides before the final precinct delegate counts were decided. Due to proportional representation, every candidate who exceeds the 15 percent threshold receives delegates, so each candidate's supporters then chose theirs (and alternates). These chosen delegates go to the county convention on May 1 – the next next step in the process on the way to the state convention in June.
In one particular precinct at Eckstein Middle School, the delegates were divided evenly between the two candidates, with three going to Sanders and three going to Clinton.
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The Clinton supporters' delegate decision started off smoothly, with three precinct members readily volunteering to serve as delegates for the candidate. The process grew tense, however, when the group realized that all three of these delegates were men.
Many women in the group, as well as men, felt uncomfortable with this decision. One of the male delegates volunteered to step down, and the precinct members elected a female to take his place.
The caucusgoers in all precincts at the school were finished choosing delegates by around noon, even though the caucuses could have remained open until 2 p.m.
Some who did not fully understand the concept of caucusing showed up at their location later in the afternoon, expecting to still be able to participate.
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Results from all precincts in the state were tallied, and the Associated Press declared Sanders the winner at around 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
The senator also won the most delegates in contests in Alaska and Hawaii, bringing his pledged delegate total to 975. He has 29 super delegates. Clinton currently has 1,243 pledged delegates and 469 super delegates.
If, during the convention, Sanders is able to tie or match Clinton in pledged delegate counts, he will try to sway pledged delegates to his side in order to get the nomination.
The Democratic candidates now look ahead to April primaries in Wisconsin, New York and Maryland as they move into the final stretch of the nominating contest.