Does the Iowa Caucus Matter?

BY CORIE LYNN

On Feb. 3, Democrats across Iowa moved about their local caucusing locations, preparing to vote in the first primary of the 2020 Presidential Election. After a day’s delay, polling locations began reporting results.

As of the morning of Feb. 5, 71% of precincts reported their results, showing Pete Buttigieg with 26.8%, only 1.6 points ahead of Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden followed with 18.4% and 15.4% respectively, while Amy Klobuchar received 12.6%.

With November still months away, some might wonder why these resultsーor the caucus as a wholeーmatter. According to Dr. Larry Gould, Chair of FHSU’s Political Science Department, the Iowa primary matters because of its representation of American democracy.

“[People should have] some interest in the functionーlike votingーfor it to work properly,” Dr. Gould said.

He also explained that Democrats and Republicans chose Iowa to be the first state with formal influence on presidential elections. Following the results of the state’s primary is thus essential to understanding the electoral process.

Dr. Gould also pointed out that FHSU students, too, should understand the Iowa caucus because they won’t always live in Kansas.

“Our students need to know the different things used,” he said.

Iowa Republicans, for instance, use a secret ballot for their caucus. Iowa Democrats, on the other hand, vote publicly by gathering in areas designated to their preferred candidate. If that candidate does not reach the necessary 15% in the initial count, supporters then disperse to represent a candidate that meets that support requirement.

Monday’s primary, however, looked different than in the past, as Democrats added an app to the caucusing process. Instead of expediting the caucusing process, it instead glitched, resulting in the delay in result reporting.

Dr. Gould noted that the confusion resulting from Monday’s caucus displays a contrast between technology and tradition, Americans wanting fast information yet continuing old processes. Voters saw the two butt heads when the app failed to do its job.

He then explained that this year’s caucus will likely only fuel an ongoing debate regarding the Iowa caucus.

At present, there is “a lot of consideration of doing away with Iowa [as the first primary],” Dr. Gould said. He went on to explain that, as the state has a largely white population, it does not represent America or American voters as a whole, nor political leanings in an election.

Even with the controversyーor, perhaps, because of the controversyーregarding, the necessity for the caucus, the nation’s eyes are on Iowa. Whether the state’s results hold true for the impending election, caucuses remain important that national voters, including those in Hays, pay attention to this part of democracy in order to better participate in it.

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