Iowa: the land of corn and caucuses. This sleepy midwestern state geared up for the Iowa Caucus, historically held on Feb. 1 every four years. Iowa isn’t exactly a diverse melting pot of different cultures, religions or languages, making many people wonder, “Why Iowa?” Thirteen states, including Iowa, use the caucus system. A caucus is basically a way for ordinary citizens to select the candidates they support. Iowa’s caucus is the most important because it’s the first one. The media hypes up the Iowa caucus weeks before the actual event and plays a crucial role in determining which candidate “won” and “lost” à la The Bachelor. This year, there are three Democrats in the running — Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. After counting the amount of Iowans at the caucus (usually held in a school or town hall), people move to delegated corners of a room in support of a particular candidate. Unless the candidate can get 15 percent of the total amount of Iowans to join their corner, the candidate is eliminated. Imagine O’Malley, Sanders and Clinton supporters in three different corners of a room. O’Malley only receives five percent of supporters of the total amount of people at the caucus, meaning he’s “lost” the Iowa Caucus. He still has a chance to get the Democrat party’s nomination, but more often than not, the Iowa Caucus doesn’t lie.
Hey, what’s a primary? Different than a caucus, a primary is a much more organized, statewide way of casting a ballot for a preferred candidate. Caucuses are very open; a supporter has to raise their hand or join a group. Not much is left to the imagination in a caucus. However, in a primary, voters fill out secret ballots. In an open primary, voters, no matter what party they belong to, can vote for whomever they want. For example, a registered Democrat can vote for Jeb Bush. Similarly, a registered Republican can vote for Clinton. In a closed primary, a registered Republican voter must vote for a Republican candidate and vice versa. Connecticut has a combination of the two primary forms.
Whether it’s your first presidential ballot or your ninth, this intro to Election 101 will have you spotting people pretending they know where Iowa is or what a caucus is miles away.
Leah Sheltry, Assistant Editor-in-Chief
Senior Leah Sheltry is the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the 2015-2016 Colonel. She is the secretary of Youth United for Global Action and Awareness (YUGA) Club and is on the swim team.