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My First Caucus by Stephanie Hoover

caucusAs a woman in my 30’s I cannot believe this was my first time caucusing! And while I watched the numbers roll in and listened to the news anchors talk about how close the numbers were between Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton it felt like I was watching the results for the actual election of the President of the United States, less the Republican party. Here’s the process I went through:
One of the great things about Facebook is that there are enough people who will make their political stance known so if you have questions about who to contact to get involved it’s fairly easy -and there’s Google.

These were the following sites where I found such information:

If you want to caucus on the Democrats’ side, here’s a locator tool:
http://iowademocrats.org/2016-democratic-caucus-locations/

If you want to caucus on the Republicans’ side, here’s a locator tool:
https://www.iowagop.org/2016-republicans’s-caucus-locations

From there I just typed in my address to find out where I was to go between 6:30 pm and 7:00 pm, however it lasted until about 8:30 pm; thank goodness for small areas! I came about the question as to whether you had to go to the location on your license or if it was based on your current residence. I called the number for my party and found out it was based on wherever you lived. Score! You just had to be within the doors/lined up at your location by 6:59 pm to participate; doors closed at 7:00 pm; which apparently was an issue with some locations presumably letting people in shortly after this time. I found one of my neighbors as soon as I walked in and she helped me get to where I needed to go. As many people are registered with a particular party those who were listed as “independents” had to declare that they were a democrat to caucus for a candidate, which I was told could be changed back at a later time. After signing in and registering as a democrat I was anointed with my party’s sticker and hung out with everyone else in said group. At my location there were signs to direct you to: Clinton, Sanders, O’Malley, or independent.

 
After the leaders totaled how many people were there to caucus (people who would be 18 by the date of the election) they figured how many people needed to be in each group which was a minimum of 15% of those caucusing. For instance, the O’Malley group didn’t have 15% representation so they were forced to then choose Clinton or Sanders and the independents had to align with one or the other also. This process was called realigning. During this time each group that had the minimum of 15% was encouraged to influence the decisions of the O’Malley group and the independents. I only spoke with one of the independents and she seemed mostly focused on which candidate was going to do more regarding healthcare. As this was not my strongest area I just listened before returning to my table; man my scholarly research was needed here! It ended up with both parties having close numbers (84/91) and each candidate receiving 3 delegates.

 
Now this was what I was not ready for and confused by…after we counted ourselves a million times –pretty accurate- and everyone was aligned with a party that had at least 15% representation we had to decide who our delegates were going to be. As the Clinton and Sanders groups both won three delegates we each got to choose three people from within our group to go to the national party convention to vote for our candidate on behalf of our state. We had about 8ish people who wanted to represent our candidate so everyone was allowed a few minutes to speak about why they should be chosen. We eventually widdled it down to three people by majority vote with everyone else remaining as alternates.
My caucus ended with some talk about resolutions, but really everyone was just like “I motion…I second…peace out let’s go home.” I don’t really know what that last bit was about. I’m thinking the next election I have to be way more involved…or I need a class about the voting process because CLEARLY I wasn’t paying attention to the fine details if I ever learned them! I will say, that what really saddens me is when people think that they will not make a difference. Remember, if enough people think they “won’t make a difference” they won’t because their voices and many, many others who think this will not be heard and collectively these people could have made a difference. No one is saying your one vote will change the world, but if thousands of people thought/think that then so much more than “just my vote” is lost. I also hate hearing people complain about our government, but also hear them say how little they pay attention and/or participate in elections. Be informed and act. You can make a difference!

 

 

 

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