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Voting Their Own Way: Maine's Extra-Long Caucuses


Most states hold their caucuses like Nevada does - all in one day - and the results are announced that evening. Not Maine though. It has one of the quirkiest systems in the country; Republican caucuses started there in January. And though most will finish up by this coming Saturday, some towns have opted to go even later, into March. We called up Al Diamon to help explain Maine's unique caucus system. He's a political writer and the author of a column called Politics and Other Mistakes. Al joins us on the line from his home in Maine. Mr. Diamon, great to have you.

AL DIAMON: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So, this year we've seen several states throughout the country move their primaries and caucuses up in the calendar year. But Maine hasn't really seemed to care about holding its contest early. How come?

DIAMON: Because we're crazy.


DIAMON: I mean, I'm just guessing here but I think that's probably it. Maine has never really been a significant state. We had a brief flirtation with that back in the '80s when our caucuses were very early. But in general, Maine just doesn't seem to care whether anybody pays attention to us or not. And we're a small state, we're not particularly early, we don't have many electoral votes yet we continue to do this. It really is a sign that we may be crazy.

MARTIN: Some of these caucuses will be very small. There's at least one being held in someone's house. I'm sure there are other examples of that. How many people usually show up to these things? I mean, it's cold right now, right?

DIAMON: It's cold. There isn't really any good reason for anybody to waste a perfectly fine weekend doing this but people do it anyway.

MARTIN: Coming from a man whose column his called Politics and Other Mistakes.

DIAMON: Yeah. I mean, I'm not going to be nice about this. Caucuses are a real bore at the best of times, even when you have, you know, a serious race going on that Maine could have some influence on. I think that last happened in 1821. But anyway...

MARTIN: So, the state GOP, the party in Maine, did try to consolidate the caucuses, because these things get prolonged. The party tried to bring them all and shorten the timeframe. How did that go over?

DIAMON: Not well. Most of the caucuses will be held this week but in fact, most of the caucuses were always held around this time.

MARTIN: So, the state GOP did announce that they're going to reveal the caucus results on February 11th. How does that affect caucuses that are being held after that date?

DIAMON: Well, I think, you know, there's an outside chance that no one will pay any attention at all, but more likely somebody will pay a little bit of attention. But so what? You think if Mitt Romney loses in Maine's caucuses that that's going to derail him? It isn't going to make a difference because there are actual races, other places that are much more important with many more electoral votes. And I'm sort of hoping that somebody has told them that, like, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have dropped out because otherwise maybe they'll vote for them.

MARTIN: Mr. Diamon joined us from his home in Maine's Carrabassett Valley. He writes a column called Politics and Other Mistakes. Al Diamon, thanks so much for talking with us.

DIAMON: Thank you.


MARTIN: You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.