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Your Vote Matters

Estherville News Editorial

January 6, 2016
Estherville News Staff , Estherville News

We can't do it the easy way in Iowa, just show up at a primary election, step into the voting booth and submit our votes. I think it's as penance for being First in the Nation that we have this process called the caucus. This year it happens Feb. 1.?Difficult for those in other states to understand, it's even difficult for Iowa voters since we only do it every four years. ?This is the first thing to understand: even if you abhor party politics, you have to choose a party affiliation in order to caucus. In each precinct, you gather with fellow members of the Republican or Democratic party and elect delegates to the 99 county conventions as well as choosing the candidate for the party's nomination. ?Each caucus in the county sends a certain number of delegates, based on the population it represents. At the county convention, they choose delegates to the state convention, and those delegates choose the delegates that go to the national convention.

On the Republican side, choosing the precinct's presidential nominee is done with a straw vote of those attending the caucus. Sometimes it's completed by a show of hands or by dividing themselves into groups according to candidate. ?

Democrats make it harder. Registered Democrats meet at the precinct location and supporters for each candidate are allowed to make their case. This is how you actually caucus. Traditionally, caucusing for a certain candidate means you go and voice your support for that candidate on caucus night. ?Then it's cluster time. A cluster here for one candidate, a cluster here for another, and still undecided voters also have a cluster. For any cluster to be viable, they must have a certain percentage of all the caucus participants. If there aren't enough people, that cluster disbands and its members join one of the other groups, kind of like a game of Red Rover in which, if you're captured, you join the other team. ?Then it becomes a numbers game. The percentage cut-off is determined by the number of delegates assigned to the precinct. ?Once the groups are settled, the next order of business is to figure out how many of that precinct's delegates each group (and by extension, each candidate) should win.? That's right: the popular vote at the caucus does not necessarily equal the number of delegates each candidate will gain at the state convention, though delegates often feel the moral obligation to represent the will of the caucus goers at the convention. ?We can't emphasize enough how important it is to register to vote and to attend the caucus.

Ultimately, your vote counts, and staying home and declining to participate means your voice is silenced. If you have any preference for which candidate is nominated from your chosen party, you can make a difference. Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney in Iowa in 2012 by a razor-thin margin. Often, the Iowa caucus is a valuable early indicator of who has popular support and who might soon drop out of the race.

Your vote matters. If you don't like the way things are or the way things might become in Washington, DC, show your face, lend your voice, and be part of the first vote for President of the United States.



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