Citizens got their first chance to weigh in on the 2020 presidential election Monday Feb. 3. As has been the case for many cycles, Iowa started off the nomination process with the first caucuses.
The Iowa Caucus differs from the primary races that most states, including Ohio, partake in. Primaries are very similar to the general election for the voters. Voters go to their polling precincts and vote by secret ballot for which candidate they want to be the nominee.
Caucuses on the other hand resemble a process one would expect to have seen in an era that preceded technology. In Iowa, all eligible voters go to their local precincts. These precincts are often gymnasiums or large rooms. Different sections are marked off for each candidate. Voters then sit in the section for the candidate that they support.
After tallying the amount of voters, candidates who have at least 15 percent of voters in their sections are considered to be “viable” and move on to the next round. All of these viable candidates then compete against each other in the same fashion. The caucus goers choose between the remaining candidates.
After this process, each candidate is given a certain amount of delegates based on the amount of support they had. Each precinct has a certain amount of delegates they can give away. Over the course of the next several weeks, the state party will determine how to reduce those initial delegate numbers down to the amount of delegates that Iowa actually has.
Following many criticisms by Sen. Sanders campaign in 2016, Iowa has attempted to make their process more democratic and transparent. Aside from reducing the amount of power that superdelegates hold, in an attempt to do this, the party decided to report not only how many delegates each candidate would receive, but also how many people supported each candidate in initial selecting and after the shuffling of viable candidates.
As was the case in 2016, precinct captains were supposed to report their results via an app. On the night of the caucuses, the app experienced technical difficulties that forced precinct leaders to call in their results on the telephone. Due to the overwhelming amount of calls, people remained on the phone for hours on hold while attempting to alert the state Democratic Party on their results.
Results were expected to come in around 9:30 Monday night. But as of Tuesday evening, those results were still nowhere to be seen as the party has been conducting a series of checks to make sure that all information is reported and reported accurately.
Despite there being no official results, multiple candidates took to stages across Iowa to give their victory speeches. Sen. Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg seemed to outright claim victory. Sen. Sanders, perhaps more subtle than the Former South-Bend Mayor, in saying that he believed when results came in that he would be in real good shape in Iowa. Mayor Pete however mentioned that, “by all indications” it was his campaign that was victorious on Monday night.
The next day, Mayor Pete defended his comments from Monday night and reiterated that based on his internal numbers, he believed he had a terrific night in Iowa.
What is interesting to note is how little of a practical role the Iowan delegates will play come time for the Democtatic National Convention in the summer. Forty-one pledged delegates and eight unpledged delegates will represent Iowa at the convention for a total of 49 delegates. This number pales in comparison to the thousands of total delegates that are present at the convention.
Some may then beg the question as to why people care so much about Iowa. Not only is the state insignificant to the convention as a whole, Iowa is 90 percent white, mostly urban and suburban. The state does not represent the country well nor the Democratic Party.
Yet, Iowa has almost consistently picked the democtatic candidate for president ever since President Jimmy Carter won Iowa back in the 1970s. Many point to the media’s coverage of Iowa as one of the reasons why Iowa has become so influential.
It is very possible that Iowa has served as simply a trend starter that helped those undecided voters choose a candidate. It could be the case that after a candidate wins Iowa, voters are more likely to vote for that candidate because that candidate is already a winner.
The delay in Iowa’s results could have an interesting impact on all of the remaining campaigns. For those who did not perform well in Iowa, like Joe Biden, the delay in results could be a blessing in disguise as the candidates move on to New Hampshire. These candidates lose no momentum going into next week’s primary voting.
The opposite can be said for those who spent a lot of time in Iowa. For candidates like Sanders, receiving good results from Iowa could have propelled him forward in the New Hampshire primaries.
Due to the debacle of the delayed results of Iowa and the constant criticisms of the process being undemocratic, many have begun to call for Iowa to no longer be the first-in-the-nation to weigh in on the presidential election.
Whether or not there will be a change in this process is a question that must be answered in the next four years. For now, candidates are looking forward to the first primary election in New Hampshire where hopefully results will come in on time.
After New Hampshire, all eyes are on Super Tuesday where a multitude of states will vote on their prefered candidate. After Super Tuesday, voters can expect the field of potential nominees to begin to thin out.