Student and faculty thoughts on the Iowa Caucus results

Sean Schmoyer, Asst. News Editor

On Feb. 3, the Iowa caucus was officially underway. As results began to come in, official statements were released indicating it would take additional days to get the full report of results.

Graphic by Madi Hummer.

As the week went on and results trickled in, discussions about the Iowa caucus began to circulate from what the results meant to how well-managed the process for the caucus was.

Kyle L. Kreider, professor of political science, discussed how the Iowa caucus has a symbolic purpose.

“It helps a media narrative. If you win or are close to the top you can say, ‘hey I won the Iowa caucus,’ but in terms of the number of delegates you obtain if you win, it is not a lot. What it does is, with Iowa being the first caucus and New Hampshire being the first primary, it gives you bragging rights, which can be important for financing or getting donations for your campaign.”

The results of the election as reported by NPR saw Pete Buttigieg leading by 0.1 percent over Bernie Sanders, resulting in essentially a tie. Elizabeth Warren had roughly 18 percent, Joe Biden had roughly 16 percent, Amy Klobuchar had roughly 12 percent and Andrew Yang brought up the rear with 1 percent of votes.

Hope Williams, sophomore communication studies major, felt the results were surprising.

“Looking at the results of the caucus, I wasn’t really leaning one way or the other. At the same time, I am surprised by the results.”

Donald Ballou, sophomore international relations and communication studies double major, said, “I am not overly surprised at the results of the Iowa caucus; all the big names are at the top, like Warren, Biden, and Sanders. I am surprised that Pete Buttigieg came out on top, if by a hair from Sanders. Though the Iowa caucus has been known to be a bit unrepresentative of diversity, and Buttigieg’s following has been pointed out to also be less than diverse, his win makes a bit of sense.”

Ballou’s analysis of the results for Buttigieg line up with reasons as to why the Iowa caucus is coming under fire and may be in danger of losing its position as the first caucus.

“Within five days, a week, two weeks, people are going to forget the Iowa caucus from a national standpoint. Since it was such a debacle I am wondering whether the Democratic Party will take steps to remove Iowa as the first caucus,” Kreider. said

“There is always debate about whether this is the best first state because a caucus is very different from a primary. A caucus is basically a neighboorhood gathering. The voter turnout is not high due to the time commitment, so people say ‘was that really Democratic, is it really reflective?’ Iowa is predominantly white, so the Democratic voters in Iowa do not really reflect the party as a whole.”

Another aspect that has caused the Iowa caucus to receive criticism was the pace at which results were reported.

Ballou said, “To be honest, I didn’t really notice a delay in the timing of the caucus, but I could probably credit that to the decreasing faith I have in the integrity of the election system of this country.”

Williams felt the delay showed the country’s corruption.

“It seems that interfering with votes is a common trend now, and that is not OK.”

While no massive tampering or election interference was reported by news media, the major problem with the results for the Iowa caucus came from an app the caucus decided to use to report results.

“I have heard that these election reporting apps have not worked in the past, so it should not be a surprise that it did not work here,” said Kreider.

Older precinct captains decided not to use the app to report instead sticking to traditional methods. This, combined with reports that the back-up phone lines used as a way to report results were backed up by calls from Donald Trump supporters, seemed to be many of the reasons results were slow coming in. In addition to this, the Iowa caucus was also functioning under new rules.

“The changes were that you had to reach a threshold, I think around 15 percent, in order to viable,” explained Kreider. “If your candidate did not reach that threshold you had to go to your second candidate. So the Steyers, the Gabbards, the Yangs… One of the rules was if your candidate was at that threshold you could not move. So if you were in a Sanders camp and he reached viability you could not move to another candidate.”

As the country moves toward the New Hampshire primary, many are already putting Iowa behind them and focusing on other primaries and the general election in November.

“I would love to see more unity in the Democratic Party. Too many hands in the pot tend to ruin the meal, and they need to push a unified front if they want to be a force reckoned with against the Trump campaign. It drives me mad that politics in this country seems more and more for the politicians themselves than the people they are meant to represent,” said Ballou.

He continued, “I would like to vote for someone who dedicates their office to the people, not to themselves, and I’m not entirely sure we have a good selection of those kinds of leaders in this election.”

“As a member of the Wilkes College Democrats, I am not too sure the caucus will have much bearing on the Democratic Party as of now,” said Williams. “Looking toward the future of the Democratic Party, I hope that a strong and prepared candidate wins in the primaries and in the caucus.”

She continued, “This country needs a complete 360 and a strong, level-headed Democratic candidate will need to make those necessary changes and decisions. I hope that young people turn out to vote. I think that as young people, we underestimate our true power when it comes to politics. We have the ability to change this country by just voting.”

April 28 marks the date for the Pennsylvania primary. Registration to vote in the primary ends on March 30, while registration to vote in the general election ends on Oct. 5.

Kreider expressed that primaries result in higher voter participation than caucuses due to the lengthy nature of a caucus. Despite this, he also addressed that the nation should prepare for a long wait for results from primaries, caucuses and even potentially the general election.

“I think people might be surprised with the 2020 general election because some states, including Pennsylvania, have changed their election laws to require the election results not be publicized until all ballots are counted, including absentee ballots,” Kreider said. “If that is the case, it is going to take longer to figure out who’s the winner. There is a chance we are not going to know who the winner is on election night in November.”