Presenting on the results of the Iowa caucus did not go as expected for the PS 240: Voting and Elections political science class because there were no results to report on.
The panel presentation, hosted by the Department of Political Science and International Relations, started at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4, right as the first 62% of official precinct results were reported by the Iowa Democratic Party.
Four students and Associate Professor of Political Science Andy Civettini talked about their experiences at the caucus. The trip took 17 students and three professors to four caucus sites in Bettendorf, Iowa.
A coding error with the app meant to be used to report numbers, busy phone lines and confusion over the new reporting requirements meant the results were delayed, Civitinni explained. As of 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, 97% of precincts were reported, with Pete Buttigieg leading over Bernie Sanders by only a handful of “state delegate equivalents.”
For the students, it gave them a chance to see a high energy form of voting in action and a chance to see voters interacting.
The caucus has people vote by physically moving to an area for their candidate. After their first picks, those who had supported a candidate that had less than 15% of the votes had to move to find a viable candidate. This means people’s votes are visible to their neighbors, and that supporters can try to convince people to join their candidate.
Junior Patrick Mulchrone said he was able to talk to many of the candidate’s precinct captains — people who led a candidate’s supporters at a precinct — and see how they presented their candidates and interacted with other caucus goers.
He also talked about the community aspect of the caucuses. Seeing friends interact during the voting stood out to him as surprising. It was also a family event, with kids there and couples participating together.
Junior Cheyenne Finke said she wished democracy always worked like the caucuses, with reflection and participation from the voters. However, she and the other students also mentioned some important hindrances, such as overcrowding and confusion about the new system.
Civittini explained that many of the new changes stemmed from concerns past campaigns had raised about the time past caucuses took, as multiple realignments happened, and the lack of transparency in reporting numbers.
Several of the students said that they appreciated that it took negotiation and convincing between voters to reach the final results.
It is uncertain when full results from Iowa will be announced. New Hampshire’s primary happens on Tuesday, Feb. 11, and is a secret ballot primary.