Caucuses are Complicated

I mean, really super annoyingly complicated.

The Democratic and Republican parties hold separate national conventions each election year to determine the final two presidential candidates who compete in the general election. Each state has a specific number of delegates it is allowed to send to the national conventions to vote.

These delegates are elected in either a state primary or caucus. State governments run primaries while the Republican and Democratic parties run caucuses. Primaries are as simple as general elections, but voting in a caucus can take hours while state parties discuss a variety of political decisions.

The Democratic Party has “superdelegates” who make up 20 percent of the vote during the national convention. Superdelegates “are drawn from the Democratic National Committee, members of Congress, governors and distinguished party leaders – like former presidents, vice presidents and congressional leaders. Some are selected at state conventions,” according to CNN.

Superdelegates don’t listen to voters, and make up their own mind as to which candidate they want.

What about the coin toss controversy?

The Democratic Party in Iowa can elect 44 national delegates. 1,683 precincts hold caucuses. 11,065 delegates are elected from these caucuses and proceed to county conventions. The county conventions elect 1,406 delegates to proceed to a state convention which finally narrows the delegates down to 44.

When there is a tie vote in an Iowa precinct, the delegates of that precinct are split between the candidates. Some precincts, however, have an uneven amount of delegates. It is the law in Iowa to determine what happens to the so-called “spare” delegate by chance. They normally perform a coin toss and award the delegate to the winner.

These coin tosses were brought into the public’s focus after Monday’s caucus. A few people shared videos of the coin tosses and, suddenly, a common practice that had been going on for years went viral.

People were pissed about these coin tosses.

CNN reported that certain precincts used a Microsoft reporting app which included information about coin tosses. The precincts that used the app reported seven total coin tosses during Democratic caucuses. Of those, Bernie Sanders won six and Hillary Clinton won one.

But there were reports of other coin tosses won by Clinton. Forbes reported Clinton-won coin tosses in precincts located in Ames, Newton, West Branch and Davenport. Clinton reportedly won two others in Des Moines.

Coin tosses are not consistently documented, so we don’t know exactly how many were won by each candidate. Still, the dozen or so reported coin tosses will most likely have little effect on the overall outcome of the Iowa Caucus because of the incredibly high quantity of delegates elected at the precinct level.

More importantly, when news reports say Clinton “won Iowa” they’re being really misleading. The entire state of Iowa doesn’t vote for one candidate. Clinton was awarded 23 delegates and Sanders was awarded 21. So, there is a small possibility Sanders lost a minor number of delegates due to chance, but neither of them won nor lost because of it.

Now, back to those “superdelegates.”

The coin tosses might not have a significant effect on the outcome of the election, but the Internet outrage that followed showed that Americans want democracy. Citizens want to elect their favorite candidates and leave nothing to chance.

It seems strange, then, that the DNC gives 20 percent of the vote to government officials and political insiders. That’s 20 percent of democracy taken out of the hands of average American citizens.

If people were outraged by a coin toss deciding tied votes in small precincts in Iowa, why do they stand by silently while one out of five votes are stolen from the public?

It’s probably because the primaries, caucuses, and conventions are super complicated. Coin tosses are easier to grasp than complicated political nonsense.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that these political processes are so convoluted that they’re challenging for the public to understand. Maybe it’s by design. Either way, voting should be simple. People should vote, and the votes should be tallied to decide who gets elected. All of these strange, traditional nuances take power away from the public. It has to change.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Elections belong to the people.”

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