Soren Sorensen wasn't too keen about what he was seeing. A throng of Democrats numbering as many as 300 filed onto the sidewalk outside St. Stephen's Church in Minneapolis' Whittier neighborhood. They were waiting to enter the holy space to vote in 2008's precinct caucus.
Sorensen was digging the progressive energy. It was the undersized accommodations that rankled him.
"People need to have space to come in, not just cast their votes, but talk and participate in the process," says Sorensen. "In 2008, in one of the most progressive districts in the city, that wasn't the case. Some people waited then left before having the chance to get in. Others left and didn't wait. I'm sure it cut out a few thousand votes in an area that's densely populated by Democrats."
Lyndale and Hiawatha avenues flank Senate District 62A, with Lake Street bordering the south and I-94 the north. If there wasn't enough room inside the caucus digs eight years years ago, it's about to get even worse. Three precincts were condensed into the church the last go-around. This time make it five will be squeezed into the Whittier Recreation Center Gym on West 26th Street.
"The facility won't be big enough," Sorensen says, "and I'm afraid [Bernie Sanders'] supporters will be affected the most."
Sorensen charges the DFL's grand poobahs with contracting — or at the very least, turning a blind eye to — the number of caucus spots to keep the vote down, thus favoring Hillary Clinton. In a blog posted last week, Sorensen accused Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin of complicity. He also skewered DNC super delegate Rick Stafford, a Clinton devotee and until last month, the Senate District 62 chair.
"[Precincts like the one in Whittier] had very [high] turnout and participation in 2008’s presidential preference balloting, voting overwhelmingly for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton," wrote Sorensen. "By all apparent signs these precincts... will vote overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders instead of Rick Stafford’s chosen candidate."
Sorensen believes the party is trying to squeeze out Sanders supporters.
"You have people who don't have cars, who are disabled, who might need interpreters, the very ones who believe in the whole political revolution Bernie Sanders is talking about, not being able to participate," Sorensen says. "There's no doubt we need more venues."
DFL spokesperson Rachel Boyer and Sanders' field director Jared Fischedick both declined comment for this story. Former district chair Stafford says Sorensen's claims of favoritism are untrue.
"We decided to consolidate the five precincts into that one location to make it easier for people," he says. "Too many locations in the past made it confusing. We did this so voters in Whittier know there's one spot where they have to go to be part of the process. If anything, we think this will benefit everyone, especially Sanders' supporters. I think he'll overwhelmingly carry Minneapolis."
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