1/03/2008

Voting in Iowa

I came across this description of how the Iowa caucus process works:

Participants indicate their support for a particular candidate by standing in a designated area of the caucus site (forming a "preference group"). An area may also be designated for undecided participants. Then, for roughly 30 minutes, participants try to convince their neighbors to support their candidates. Each preference group might informally deputize a few members to recruit supporters from the other groups and, in particular, from among those undecided. Undecided participants might visit each preference group to ask its members about their candidate.

After 30 minutes, the electioneering is temporarily halted and the supporters for each candidate are counted. At this point, the caucus officials determine which candidates are "viable". Depending on the number of county delegates to be elected, the "viability threshold" can be anywhere from 15% to 25% of attendees. For a candidate to receive any delegates from a particular precinct, he or she must have the support of at least the percentage of participants required by the viability threshold. Once viability is determined, participants have roughly another 30 minutes to "realign": the supporters of inviable candidates may find a viable candidate to support, join together with supporters of another inviable candidate to secure a delegate for one of the two, or choose to abstain. This "realignment" is a crucial distinction of caucuses in that (unlike a primary) being a voter's "second candidate of choice" can help a candidate.

When the voting is closed, a final head count is conducted, and each precinct apportions delegates to the county convention.


When it comes to voting, you can do it in one of two ways: secret balloting, or non-secret balloting. I’ll admit that I’d never experienced firsthand the “pleasure” of non-secret balloting. I’ve done it the old fashioned way - by walking into a curtained voting booth and reading the list of names. Then there’s some buttons to press, switches to flip and levers to pull. Done. I’ve voted and no one has a clue who I voted for. Secret balloting.

Non-secret balloting in its simplest form would have you walk to the polling place, show your I.D., and then tell the old lady who you’re voting for. She then writes it all down for you and sticks it in a box.

Iowa has decided that non-secret balloting wasn’t bad enough, so they added the requirement that you not only tell a room full of people who you are voting for, but you then have to spend an hour or so justifying to them why you are voting that way. Next, the rules actually encourage everyone to torture each other about their intentions until everyone is firmly set in their ways, pissed off, and wishing they'd brought pepper spray or baseball bats to help them vote.
In all fairness, I have to admit that voting in Iowa sounds much more exciting than the way I've been doing it. I now have to question whether my love for secret balloting is outweighed by my love for arguing with people.

1 comment:

Deb said...

I now have to question whether my love for secret balloting is outweighed by my love for arguing with people.


we should all move to Iowa....