The Walking Subcaucus

/ 13 January 2010

Last week I spent an evening training new caucus convenors for our February 2nd DFL precinct caucuses here in Minnesota. In general, precinct caucuses can be great fun, and I’ve found the caucus system here in Minnesota was much more successful at getting me involved in party politics at the local scale than I ever was in Massachusetts or Ohio, which rely on primaries.

One tradition of the caucus is that if there are more people in your caucus who want to be delegates to the next level of party convention than you have delegate slots available, the walking subcaucus process (a kind of proportional representation) will be used to determine who gets elected as delegates. In theory the walking subcaucus is a pretty easy process, each person just walks over to the group that best represents their point of view. If that group ends up big enough to elect one or more delegates, they do so within the group. It is a fun way to get to know your neighbors.

In practice, the simple math involved can be a bear. It is well described on page 4 of the 2010-2011 Official Call put out by the DFL, but even that clear description does not make it easy. I decided to write a web-based calculator to help with the math, and after I dug into the problem I realized that even the training we had been giving convenors was incomplete in some minor, but notable, ways. In fact, I’d never been given a complete picture myself!

This is all a long way of getting around to the point, my Minnesota DFL Subcaucus Calculator is now available. I still consider it beta, because it is only a few days old and I hope some early testers shake out some problems. I have had a couple people from the statewide DFL dig into it and report a raft of problems to me which I’ve fixed, but please don’t blame the DFL if the calculator still makes mistakes. Just let me know.

In particular, I’ve tried to make this a tool that can be used from an iPhone or other mobile device. I was particularly pleased to find ways to make the calculator iPhone aware (though it could be prettier) and even able to use the numeric keypad by default for certain text fields. The small joys of programming!

Anyway, if you are a Minnesota DFLer, take a look!


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