I was an participant in the recent local Democratic convention. The process in Texas is strange and almost impossible to explain (which is why one of the resolutions voted on was whether or not to retain it). In short, some delegates are awarded to candidates based on the popular vote, and some are awarded based on the a precinct convention of delegates held after the primary. I was an alternate this year, and thus attended the convention for my senate district.
Regardless of political persuasion, it was worth the time and effort to attend. I got to the gates at 6:45AM, to line up for the sign up beginning at 8AM. There were already some folks there, and by the time the gates opened there was a line of hundreds behind me. This convention has never seen a population bigger than about 700 people... and by the end of the registration period, there were more than 5,000 signed in. Amazing. It took more than 4 hours to get us all in the building. I am told there were 4 other conventions in the Houston area, and all of them had similar turnouts.
The day was amazing, frustrating, exhilarating, confusing, boring, and almost any other "ing" you could name. Each precinct had to sit together, which occasionally created friction between Obama and Clinton supporters. But our precinct stayed pretty friendly towards each other. Finally around 6:30PM or so we voted (each precinct elects one delegate and one alternate to go to the state convention in August) for our delegate and alternate. I am grateful that I did not get elected for that position.
The crowding was quite intense. In fact we used all the folding chairs that were available, and ended up spilling out of the building onto courtyards and patios. Fortunately the weather was quite decent for a Houston spring - warm and humid, but not too windy or sunny or rainy. Our convention was held at the local horse-racing track so we had a beautiful parade of horses exercising in the morning. Unfortunately I couldn't get any decent photographs of them!
We bought and ate almost everything that the concession had, and by 5PM they were almost out of food. Sitting in that building surrounded by 5,000 people talking, I was reminded of the flocks of grackles that congregate on the trees and wires each spring and fall. Everyone squawking, the volume rising, and if you tune out the words the sound is very similar! :)
I saw no evidence of vote-tampering, or strong-arming, or persuasive tactics beyond simple conversation. My delegate card is a treasured souvenir of an important event - participating in the democratic system that our country is so proud of. I am glad to have been a part of it.
Photo credits: Amy Nicolai.