This year is building up to be interesting and highly political, as the presidential election – with its variety of unique and sometimes scandalous candidates – draws nearer. For many, college is a time when they become politically involved, and for some this may be their first opportunity to vote or participate in an election. Cornell College has been very active in involving its community in this process, inviting many presidential candidates – including Hillary Clinton, Mark Everson, Bernie Sanders, Carly Fiorina, and Martin O’Malley – and even former-president Bill Clinton to visit our campus. And last Monday, Iowa began the process of the presidential elections with the Iowa Caucus.
But what is a caucus? A caucus is an electoral event in which residents of the individual precincts within a county – with democratic and republican gatherings in separate locations – elect delegates to represent voter preferences at the Congressional District Convention and State Convention, which then selects delegates for the presidential nominating conventions. In Iowa there are 1,681 precincts within 99 counties, whose chosen delegates make up about 1% of the nations total. While this may seem like an insignificant number, the Iowa Caucus is actually an incredibly important event. It is the first state in the nation to caucus, and has been since 1972, and as such receives a huge amount of media attention. In addition, the Iowa Caucus has a 43% success rate of predicting the Democratic presidential nominee and a 50% success rate of predicting the Republican one.
The caucus is – at least it seemed to me – to be a surprising long and informal process. Participants must register, which requires residency – in Iowa defined as having a local mailing address and social security number. At seven, when the caucus began, participants were asked to organize into areas of political preference; in the Democratic gathering it was largely divided between Clinton and Sanders, with the Undecided, Other, and Martin O’Malley grouped together in the middle. A representative from each preference was asked to come forward and give a short speech in support of their chosen candidate, after which people were sorted into groups by candidate. After the first round of counting Martin O’Malley and other candidates – as well as the Undecided option – were eliminated for having less than 15% of the total participant turnout. There was then two rounds of counting for the two remaining candidates – Clinton and Sanders – with open discussion encouraged between the groups and among their participants. In the end, in the Mount Vernon High School Democratic gathering, Bernie Sanders beat out Hillary Clinton by roughly 100 votes.
2016 was the first year that caucus results were submitted electronically. On the Democratic side Clinton won by a close margin – many reporting that the results were really “too close to tell” – with 49.9% of the vote with 23 delegates over Sanders 49.6% and 21 delegates. O’Malley trailed at 0.6% with no delegates, and ended up dropping out of the presidential race in the middle of the caucus. For the Republicans, Cruz won with 27.6% and 8 delegates, Trump and Rubio nearly tied for second with 24.3% and 23.1% respectively, each winning 7 delegates. Carson was the next closest at 9.3% and 3 delegates. Paul, Bush, Fiorina, Kasich, and Huckabee each earned 1 delegate, with Christie, Santorum, and Gilmore at 0. Paul, Huckabee, and Santorum have all pulled out of the race.
Isabel Stone, Staff Writer