Lining up to enter Lowry Elementary School in east Denver Tuesday night, Shana Saint-Phard, 11 years old, is excited for her first ever Caucus.
As Bernie Sanders supporters course through the lines of what turns out to be more than 500 people, Shana delightedly takes a “Bernie 2016” button.
“I am not going to really wear it, it’s just really fun to have,” Shana said.
She’s is an aspiring political journalist, and is covering the Caucus and election process for a fifth grade class project. She is a student at Carson Elementary school, though Lowry Elementary was her mother’s Caucus precinct.
As Shana and her mother, Deborah Saint-Phard, crowd into the school’s cafeteria, the young reporter squeezes her way to the very front so she can better hear the rules and two minute speeches from various local and state candidates and their supporters.
“There are a lot of rules,” Shana comments, trying to write them all in her notebook.
In a Colorado Democratic Caucus – it gets confusing, even for the Caucus captains.
“I’m not totally sure exactly how it all works, I think there are superdelegates, and this is the first step,” said Camille Spaccavento, precinct captain. “The rest, you should look up online.”
Here’s basically how it works: The Caucus is step one in a four-part process. Caucus-goers rally for the candidate they hope to elect and each precinct is allocated a designated number of delegates that will go to the county convention, which is the next step. Then, delegates are sent to the state assembly, which will take place in April, and, finally, delegates represent Colorado at the Democratic National Convention this summer in Philadelphia.
So while the straw poll in the Colorado Democratic Caucus was not binding, a win for Sen. Bernie Sanders is still considered important for his campaign.
After the rules were explained, people broke out into separate precincts, and Shana followed a crowd of 97 people into the Lowry Elementary library, where things got heated.
A straw poll revealed that the room was split almost evenly between Clinton and Sanders supporters – 48 for Clinton, 45 for Sanders and just four uncommitted voters – who sparked a lively debate.
“I am voting for Hillary,” Spaccavento said, “because she’s the only one who can hit the ground running and be president.”
From the crowd, Sander’s supporters shouted out, “You should vote on your principles! Vote for what you feel is right!”
“Why are they fighting like this,” Shana asked, still taking photos on her phone, and writing notes. “Aren’t they really all on the same side?”
Ultimately, almost all those participating agreed that they would vote for the Democratic nominee, but the undecided voters still wanted to be convinced.
“I’m a veteran, and so is my husband,” said Francesca Kollar. “I don’t want my kids to fight a war that their father and I were already fighting.”
She said that unclear positions on foreign policy make her unwilling to commit to either candidate. Of the four undecided voters in the room, she was the only one to remain uncommitted; the other three ultimately supported Clinton.
Aside from foreign policy, healthcare became an important issue in the room. Many were interested in a single payer system – which as one Sander’s supporter pointed out – could become law in Colorado if voters support Amendment 69.
In the Lowry school library, Clinton won by six votes, but at the statewide level, Sanders led the straw poll by a big margin, 19 points.
Colorado Republicans did not participate in a presidential preference poll, but nationally, Donald Trump emerged from Super Tuesday still in the lead. He picked up an additional 234 delegates in Tuesday’s voting, giving him a total of 316, or one-quarter of the 1,237 needed for the Republican nomination.