This past week, the residents of Iowa voted for their top choice as the Democratic and Republican nominee for the President of the United States. However, Iowans voted through a process called a caucus, which is extremely biased and problematic, thereby possibly skewing the results.
On Monday, voters congregated from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in precincts throughout the state. This may not seem like a problem, but there is no absentee balloting and many Iowa voters were unable to attend and cast their vote. According to MSNBC, in 2008, Iowa turnout for both Republican and Democratic primaries was about 360,000, or about 17 percent of the population.
However, New Hampshire – with half the population of Iowa – had almost 520,000 people vote in its primary. This has been such a consistent problem that in 2008 then Senator Barack Obama’s campaign even offered to babysit children so that people could caucus.
This could have a huge effect on the election in Iowa and eventually in the country. In a 2015 Washington Post article, researchers Jeremy Pope and Christopher Karpowitz concluded that more ideologically extreme voters attend caucuses than primaries, which means caucuses may not properly gauge the opinions of the entire state of Iowa. This could possibly lead to the election of a fringe candidate from a skewed turnout. Both the 2012 and 2008 Republican primaries in Iowa are clear examples, where Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, two ultra-conservative candidates, were elected.
After the first vote is done, anyone who voted for a candidate who did not make 15 percent of the precinct must move their vote to another candidate. This is an insanely high threshold to make. It also discourages voters to vote for their preferred candidate, rather the one that could reach the 15 percent threshold.
Once the precinct has finished voting, each is assigned a certain amount of delegates. These delegates are not based on voter turnout or population, but by previous voter turnout in the Iowa gubernatorial and presidential election, again skewing the vote. This means that, “more than a quarter-27 percent- of Sanders supporters come from just three of Iowa’s 99 counties. But those three counties only award 12 percent of the total delegate count.”
After caucus night, each precinct in the county holds a county convention to send delegates to the state convention, that will then select delegates to the national convention. This seems fair, however candidates who know how to work the system can sweep all the delegates without winning the state. In 2012, Ron Paul, who came third in the Iowa caucuses, received 23 of the 28 state delegates.
Almost every aspect of the Iowa caucuses is biased and undemocratic. Not only is the delegate process skewed based on previous voter turnouts, but the caucus process also only attracts a small amount of people in a short amount of time.