Voting in this year's Democratic presidential primary probably won't be as easy as you may think.
If you go to your normal polling place on Tuesday, Feb. 22, and you want to vote Democratic, the only choice on the ballot will be Lyndon LaRouche, Jr. Michigan voters won't be able to choose between Al Gore or Bill Bradley until Saturday, March 11, when the statewide Democratic caucus takes place.
Voters for the Republican ticket will be able to cast their ballot for any GOP presidential candidate during the primary election on Feb. 22.
Confusing? Yes. Will some voters be upset? Probably. Is a statewide caucus like this unprecedented? No, both parties have held them in the past.
"I fully understand voters' frustration and confusion," said Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh. "We have two competing interests at play, state law and party rules. And unfortunately, the voters are left wondering if a ballot error has been made."
The confusion, Sabaugh said, stems from a conflict in current Democratic National Committee rules, which prohibit open primaries for the selection of presidential candidates, and state election law, which requires that all qualified parties appear on the ballot.
Gore and Bradley have asked the Michigan Secretary of State' office not to print their names on the primary ballot. Instead, they are participating in the March 11 caucuses, since those are the only ballot results that will be recognized by the state Democratic Party.
"The Feb. 22 presidential primary is solely a taxpayer-funded private election for Republicans," said Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.
Following are a few questions and answers about the caucus.
How do I participate in the Saturday, March 11 caucuses?
The caucuses will convene at 11 a.m., with registration starting at 10 a.m., at locations around the state. All participants must complete a registration sign-in, including a public declaration of being a Democrat. Participants will then "break-out" by presidential preference to cast and count the vote. Each caucus will adjourn no later than two hours after convening. Results are reported back to the MDP that day.
Can I vote by mail?
Yup. You qualify for a mail ballot on account of disability, religious belief, absence from the caucus zone or being age 60 or older. Vote by mail applications are available from local party organizations or by contacting the Michigan Democratic Party, (517) 371-5410, or fax, (517) 371-2056 or mail, 606 Townsend, Lansing, MI 48933. Applications must be returned to the MDP by March 3, 2000. Ballots will be send to those who meet the criteria, and they must be returned to the party by March 10.
Do I have to be a member of the Democratic Party to vote in the caucus?
No. Anyone can participate. But during registration, everyone must sign a form declaring himself or herself a Democrat.
How many caucus sites will there be?
Voting in a caucus probably won't be as convenient as going to your regular local polling place. Generally, there will be one voting site in each county, but the Democratic Party says there will be more than 100 locations in Michigan's 82 counties.
To find the location nearest you, call the Michigan Democratic Party at (517) 371-5410. Or go to their web site, www.mi-democrats.com.
Can I vote in both the Republican primary on Feb. 22 and in the Democratic caucus on March 11?
Sure. Republicans don't require a party declaration; Democrats do. Democrats are officially recommending that voters steer clear of "mischief" by not crossing over and voting for candidates who would make the race against GOP front-runner George W. Bush more interesting.
Gov. John Engler has declared Michigan the "firewall" state that will stop any losing momentum for Bush should the Texas governor begin to falter in other states' primaries to challengers like John McCain.