The Democratic caucus in Grand Forks was a popular place Tuesday. Same for the caucus in Fargo.
Here in Grand Forks, hundreds of people at a time waited for their turn to vote at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers building on North Washington.
At times, the wait was as long as 75 minutes; a few hours after the traditional lunchtime peak, it still was more than a half-hour. Shortly after 5 p.m., the line wound from ballot boxes in the basement of the union hall, up the stairs, through the first floor, and nearly back out the front door.
In Fargo, the lines were so long that some voters waited up to two hours.
Democratic leaders and volunteers were excited about the turnout, and they should be. But for many, the process was a hassle and one that should have been easier.
Many were frustrated. And since the Grand Forks site selected was probably too small from the start, it led to other troubles as nearby businesses were forced to tow vehicles – or at least threaten to tow vehicles – that were forced away from the IBEW hall due to insufficient parking. Don’t blame those other businesses for towing violators; it’s not fair for them to have non-customers crowd out their parking lots during typical retail hours. Meanwhile, some people had to park three or four blocks away.
A midafternoon caller to the Herald, who voted after a long wait, was frustrated with the process. He said it bordered on voter suppression.
Good for Democrats for coming out in droves to cast a ballot in this important race to become the Democratic nominee. In Grand Forks’ case – and in North Dakota overall – they prefer Bernie Sanders over Joe Biden. It’s possible North Dakota’s win will be among the last political gasps for Sanders, who is falling behind as Biden gains momentum.
Biden was the keynote speaker two years ago at the state Democratic Convention at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. That’s interesting for a couple of reasons.
First, it seems that appearance would have provided more local cred for the former vice president. And second, the Alerus Center – or somewhere like it – is probably where future caucus votes should be held. In the future, these sites must be set up in places with ample room inside and with suitable parking opportunities outside.
Again, Tuesday’s overcrowded locations actually are a good thing. But consider how many people didn’t have an hour or two to cast a ballot. And consider the people whose cars could have been towed due to confusion over parking. And consider those who heard about the lines and simply chose not to participate.
This isn’t a Democrat or Republican thing – it’s a voter-access thing.
In this case, Democrats should have predicted greater turnout and made provisions to better accommodate it.