I feel for the culinary workers in Las Vegas. The shortcomings of the caucus system may be exposed at their expense. From the Las Vegas Sun:
Culinary Union organizers have been working in earnest for the last week to get the word out about the union’s endorsed candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, and to lock down member support in the run-up to Saturday’s caucus.
But two Culinary members supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton say they watched today as two of those field organizers were overzealous in their efforts as they collected pledge cards for Obama in the break room of a Strip casino. The Clinton campaign quickly tried to paint the incident as part of a broader pattern, though introduced no other evidence.
After the Sun worked the story for two hours, this much is clear: What exactly happened this afternoon at Paris Las Vegas depends on whom you talk to. To hear Clinton’s campaign and her supporters tell it, the union intimidated a member into caucusing for Obama, demanding that she sign a pledge card — or face exile from the caucus.
Now, it's unclear whether voter intimidation actually occurred, or whether this was just a misunderstanding. The reporter continued to follow the story, and in an update wrote:
The Culinary Union has investigated and says the source of the drama seemed to be about how one changes one’s party registration three days before the caucus.
Antuna was a registered independent, and the union reps were talking to her about how she had to be a Democrat to participate on Saturday, Weiss said.
Hardly scandalous and certainly not intimidation, she added.
Weiss said she suspects the whole incident was drummed up by the enthusiastic Clinton supporters, who got heated when the union reps started pitching Obama.
Well, I'm not surprised that when the Culinary Union investigated they -- surprise! -- placed all the blame on the Clinton staffers. But clearly there is room for confusion with this system, which may lead to voters who do not vote freely -- for a variety of reasons, including simple ignorance or misunderstanding of the rules. It's time for Nevada, Iowa, and all other states still using this antiquated election system to switch to a primary vote.