This post is not intended to make a political statement; rather, I'm trying to capture my observations of and impressions from a process. Indeed, I do not endorse nor even necessarily agree with any organizations mentioned herein.
Now, with all that having been said: today I went to the Democratic Party caucus for my city.
I've always imagined politics as being crisp and formalized: there's a process, and it's followed, with all the necessary ceremony. It's filed in my head right next to the judicial system: images of suits and older white men saying the word "mahogany" to each other over leather-covered benches, but that's neither here nor there. Like many such ideas, I knew this one couldn't possibly hold in practice, but I missed the degree.
What I mean by that is that they let literally anyone in (including me, if I'm taking a lighthearted tone). In order to vote on delegates, one had to be a registered Democrat, but - new this year, apparently - they were allowing same-day registration. Had they not done so, about one third of the people from my ward would have had to re-register elsewhere at an earlier date, myself included.
The entire process, from start to finish, took just under three hours (and was probably not helped by all of us having to re-register). My ward took significantly longer than other wards; despite having an average number of delegates, turnout for the caucus was much higher than other wards due to geographic/political concentration of MIT students in the area. MIT-affiliated folk were nearly all of the young people present, and more than half the rest were seniors. One of the ward chairs explained that this was the biggest turnout he'd seen; in some non-election years, there typically aren't enough people present to fill all available delegate seats if they all ran.
And I know this isn't technically political process covered under law the same way voting in, for example, the presidential election is, it might as well be: we have two legally entrenched political parties, and this is one of them. (It happens to be the historically stronger one in my state.) Or we could make an argument that it counts as political process because it was slow and inefficient (see also: three hours). Its status could also be argued based on the number of candidate (and sitting) officials walking around. (As an aside: it was a weird experience that these people wanted to shake my hand and chat. It makes some sense, though - the people most likely to be convinced to vote for you are people who are already voting.)
In terms of process, it was about as inefficient as I'd expected. Delegates must be split evenly between male and female, but the formalization of this split interacted poorly with the halfway-to-instant runoff voting scheme they had going on. It took about five minutes to explain, but: gender-segregated plurality for delegates, followed by wholly separate gender-segregated plurality for delegate alternates. This is augmented by a separate affirmative action policy for "addon" delegates, chosen based on ethnicity, disability, and age (either old or young, which was odd because almost everyone present fell into one bucket or the other). Most of us young people in the ward knew some voting theory, which of course made the interaction of those things even more exciting.
I think the entire process was best summarized by two events. First, we were in a cafeteria; at some point, we paused because pizza had been delivered. (You'll have to forgive me for being entertained at this one; my caffeine wore off shortly before.) Second, one of the people (who ended up getting a delegate position) brought her daughter, who was very entertained herself drawing through most of the proceedings. She (who couldn't have been more than six) was very enthusiastic about wanting to be a delegate, despite having no idea what that meant. Shortly thereafter, she fell asleep, which is how she spent most of the end, except when she suddenly snapped awake and stared wide-eyed across the table at me for a solid minute. You're gonna go places, kid.