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Precinct 342 packs in 728 Democrats in lively caucus

Wednesday, March 5, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Mary Ann Neely has been the Democratic precinct chair at Pct. 342 Barton Hills Elementary School since 1980. Before Tuesday night’s very polite showdown between the supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, the greatest number of caucus goers Neely can recall seeing was about 40.


On Tuesday night at 7pm, the polls closed with 85 voters standing in line waiting to vote. When they were done, many of them joined the hundreds waiting in the school cafeteria and the gym and in long lines that snaked down the halls of the school.


Because Travis County gave the precinct only given one computer, voters did not finish voting until 8:15pm.


A total of 728 people signed in—of those, 490 signed in for Obama and 238 for Clinton, giving him 69 delegates (67.3 percent) to the Travis County convention and her 34 delegates (32.7 percent). Signing up to be counted for the caucus process took considerably longer than voting for all the candidates on the ballot. Each person signing in was watched by a representative of the Clinton and Obama campaigns.


Then several representatives of each campaign counted the signatures for each candidate together while the rest of the convention goers milled about talking and waiting. Watching this excitement were CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux, who usually covers the White House and broadcasters from the Australian Broadcasting Company and Radio Television Erin, the Irish national network.


By 11:15pm, the delegate count was done and all the proposed resolutions approved except for two—both opposing abortion—which the group rejected.


Meanwhile, down the hallway in a small conference room, Republican Pct. Chair Gail Suttle was presiding over 20 Republican voters. Ron Paul supporter Kevin French came out of that meeting a satisfied man. He reported that 16 of the 20 who showed up for that group’s caucus supported the race’s iconoclastic Texas Congressman. 


Precinct caucuses all over Travis County reported unusually high attendance Tuesday, with groups of 300, 400 and more reported at many precincts.


Photos by Stacy Aronson

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