BY GRACE ROGERS
Democrats across Iowa participated in the Iowa caucuses on Monday night, casting the first votes of America’s 2016 presidential election cycle. While some caucus-goers were old-time pros, this year offered a unique opportunity for many students.
“I haven’t caucused before,” sophomore Mollie Clark said. “I believe that civic participation is one of the best non-violent ways to advocate for change in our society and therefore participating is a priority for me.”
Clark isn’t the only first time caucus voter on Drake’s campus. Approximately 485 students attended the Democratic caucus in Olin Hall. Senator Bernie Sanders took first place at that precinct with 248 supporters. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley barely edged out former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with 108 supporters. Clinton took the remaining 107.
The Democratic caucus is more complicated in its format than its Republican counterpart, an issue that can turn away potential participants.
“I actually went to the Republican caucus in 2012 as extra credit for my high school government class,” senior Hanna Howard said. “That format is a lot more straightforward than the Democratic process, and I can see why people think it’s easier.”
Organizations have made an effort to explain the Democratic caucus format, in an effort to ease the process for nervous voters.
“I feel that there have been many opportunities to familiarize myself with the structure of the caucus,” Clark added. “Drake held a mock-caucus which let students experience a simulation of the format.
“In addition, Bernie supporters from Des Moines created a ‘How to Caucus’ video which I think did a good job simplifying the process and giving citizens an idea of what they will see at the real caucuses,” Clark said.
Sometimes, the differences in the caucuses can be an advantage for potential voters.
“I like the format because it allowed me to have a back-up plan if my first-choice candidate does not reach the threshold,” Clark said.
Howard was excited by this format.
“At the Republican caucus, people don’t really make a case for any candidate,” Howard said. “They talk a lot less. I’m excited to hear why people believe in their specific candidates.”
Clark also pointed out a disadvantage to the Democratic Caucus format.
“It can change how people vote,” she said. “By being in public around members of the community it can influence one’s choice due to fears of how others perceive them.”
While the Dem o c r a t i c caucus can be complicated and confusing, Iowans still turned out in large numbers to be the first voters in the 2016 presidential race.
“I think people are more excited to caucus this year because they are excited for the candidates,” Howard said. “People are more personally involved, so they will show up.”