Caucus voting became chaotic

March 5, 2008 4:50:37 PM PST
Texas voters could take part in the primaries and the caucuses. But the caucuses at some local precincts didn't go too smoothly.Back in the 2004 Democratic primaries, 75,000 people voted. Two years later in 2006, 35,000 people voted. Yesterday, 410,000 showed up to vote and at that point, party leaders say there was really not much they could do.

Some precincts just weren't prepared for the huge crowds that came out last night. The lines were long at Central Baptist Church in northwest Harris County. Some precincts ran out of ballots, and some voters had to wait for hours before they could vote.

It was tense, confused and at times a bit heated and for many people not a very memorable evening.

"It was chaos. The lines were long, and constantly long," said one voter we spoke with.

But for leaders of the Harris County Democratic party, it was just the opposite feeling.

"Well, I mean we couldn't be happier with what we are seeing with the enthusiasm, the excitement. The involvement by people we've never seen involved in political activities before," said Harris County Democratic Chairman Gerry Birnberg.

The primary voting was not complete until 1am at Nimitz High School. Caucus votes went up until 2am.

"So as it went on to wait, and wait, and wait, that seemed all we were, was just waiting," said voter Mike Houston.

Some people who showed up to caucus became volunteers, helping the elderly and pregnant women with places to sit. But there were plenty of angry people out here, and a lot of people never got to vote.

Things got out of control at the Robinson Westchase Library on Wilcrest and Richmond last night. Several HPD units responded as people got upset they couldn't get in to caucus at 9pm.

There was never any violence reported, and once they got inside, everyone calmed down. About 500 people caucused at that library alone, way more than have voted in years past.

The party leaders were relatively dead in the water, having planned and budgeted for this day last yea, never expecting for Texas to play such a key role in the presidential primaries.

"We were locked in with a certain number of voting locations, with a certain budget. It was budgeted for an election for 100,000 people and we had to do the best we could," said Birnberg.

"That's how many people you were expecting, was 100,000?" we asked.

"No, well, expecting last November, yes," he replied.

There were lines in other polling stations statewide commonly for the same reason but party leadership is guessing that frustrations last night will give way for forgiveness this morning.

"Nobody knew it was going to be this many. Hey, we never had anything like this," said Birnberg. "There weren't any manuals. There weren't any history, weren't anything that we could fall back on to make the predictions."

Republicans also set a new record yesterday. Both parties could not know what to anticipate until after Super Tuesday on February 5 and that's when they realized there could be a huge potential for a lot of people to come out and vote.

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