THE BUZZ II: Dem Registrations Soar

By on March 29, 2016

As the Democratic caucus nears, county clerk reports record number of residents switching up and registering Democrat.

Some Jackson Hole residents who traveled to the Bernie Sanders rally in Idaho Falls March 18 have also been involved in grassroots efforts in the valley. (Photo: Cody Downard)

Some Jackson Hole residents who traveled to the Bernie Sanders rally in Idaho Falls March 18 have also been involved in grassroots efforts in the valley. (Photo: Cody Downard)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The doors to register to vote in Wyoming’s Democratic Caucus have officially closed. In a mad dash to the finish line, voters turned out in droves. Sherry Daigle of the Teton County Clerk’s office reported that from March 7 to March 25 at exactly 5 p.m.—the last possible moment to register as a Democrat in order to participate in the Democratic caucus—the County Clerk’s office registered 205 new Democrats. The office also reported 139 party changes to Democrat.

Daigle was shocked by the turnout. “This was probably one of the busiest times we’ve ever seen. We’ve not had [registration] like that that I can recall, and I’ve been doing this for 16 or 17 years.”

The sharp rise in voter registration numbers, Daigle said, is credit to robust efforts by Teton County Democrats. “They did a good job of getting the word out.”

Local artist/registered Democrat Aaron Wallis is hopeful that his efforts to support the Bernie Sanders presidential bid contributed to those numbers. Through weeks of phonebanking and canvassing, Wallis says he called around 100 people, reminding them to register and caucus. Wallis told The Planet that everyone he spoke with that was not registered vowed they would. “Did they actually make Friday’s deadline? Who knows. I’m hopeful,” he said.

One of the most important items for local Sanders supporters has becoe the surrogate affidavit form. As many people in Teton County are working during the April 9 Democratic caucus, submitting these forms no later than Friday, April 1 has become a big agenda item. However, the forms differ from absentee ballots, used in general elections. Only folks who qualify can submit—either because of work, disability, illness, religious obligations, studies abroad or military service.

Wyoming Republicans, on the other hand, needed to register before precinct caucuses on March 1 in order to have their voices heard. The Republican caucus is a convoluted ordeal with three stages. On the flip side, the Democrats’ closed caucus takes place on April 9. In one fell swoop, Wyoming’s 18 delegates for the Democratic National Convention are decided.

The Wyoming State Democratic caucus is one of the latest presidential caucuses on the docket, with the exception of Puerto Rico and North Dakota. Those 18 delegates will go on to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25 to 28 where the Democrats will vote to decide their presidential nominee.

For many Sanders supporters, collecting surrogate forms has already paid off. Jackson front desk manager Marcus Stauffer hosted a curry dinner to rally for Sanders, asking that his guests consider participating in the political process. After phonebanking for hours, conversing with friends, family, neighbors and coworkers, Stauffer has already collected approximately 40 forms for Sanders. Wren Fialka has had similar success. In hand, Fialka has collected about 25 forms. In addition to those, she expects to collect another 25 forms that she already distributed.

Every vote counts in a race as close as Teton County’s, as Sanders campaign coordinator Nathaniel Greene can attest. He estimated that individual voters have already turned in approximately 100 surrogate forms.

Jackson town councilman Jim Stanford is a big Bernie supporter. He thinks that Sanders will stand a fighting chance in Jackson and the rest of the state. “Knowing a bit about Wyoming politics, I think his message will resonate in Cheyenne, and it’ll resonate in Laramie. I think it’ll be a competitive caucus,” Stanford hypothesized.

Stanford thinks Wyoming will soon take center stage in American politics as the Wyoming Democratic caucus draws near. To him, it is within the realm of reason that both Clinton and Sanders will make stops throughout Wyoming while on the trail. “It’s fun for Wyoming to be contested—to have people engaged and excited about the race,” Stanford said.

Both Clinton and Sanders are in need of every delegate they can collect. Jackson activist Pete Muldoon thinks the Clinton-Sanders race is far from over, even though mainstream media has painted a landslide victory for Clinton. Muldoon believes Sanders is not only giving her a run for her money in the primary, but that he would perform better in the general election.

“A year ago, Clinton’s people were saying Democrats needed to rally around her because she was the most likely [candidate] to win. I think we should be saying that about Sanders now. This election isn’t about [Democrats and Republicans] as it traditionally has been. It’s about the establishment versus everyone else. The establishment is very likely to lose. We should be very concerned about who will be the candidate of everyone else,” Muldoon said, with a veiled reference to presidential candidate Donald Trump.

While Rep. Andy Schwartz (D-Jackson) is a Clinton supporter, he thinks any Democrat in the office is far better than Trump. “I think the core of liberalism is the notion that everybody should benefit from our wealth, one way or another. That doesn’t mean everybody gets the same stuff, it means everyone has opportunities,” he said. Schwartz is a proponent of access to fair and equitable education whether in wealthy or poorer areas, that people should not be going hungry, and that folks should have access to basic health care—all of which Schwartz acknowledges Sanders intends to facilitate.

Unsurprisingly, if it comes down to Trump and Sanders, it isn’t even a contest for Schwartz. He says Sanders is ideologically sounder and politically far more experienced.

That’s a painful predicament for many Republicans. If Trump takes the nomination, some have said they cannot in good conscience vote for him or ask their fellow Republicans to endorse him. The well-publicized resignation of former Teton County GOP Chair JuliAnne Forrest, who stepped down over the county’s decision to endorse Trump, highlights some Republicans’ growing distrust for Trump as he racks up primary victories around the country. PJH

Editor’s Note: This online version has been amended to reflect that surrogate affidavit forms, not absentee ballots, are used in the Democratic caucus. Unlike absentee ballots, these forms may only be filled out and submitted by folks who cannot attend the caucus because of work, disability, illness, religious obligations, studies abroad or military service.

About Natosha Hoduski

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