I have read two stories now from the New York Times about questionable practices in the Iowa Caucuses. One on Iowa’s Student Vote and another on the reporting of the Democratic Caucus results. In regard to the student vote I was disappointed to learn that:
. . . political operatives often try to suppress the student vote . . . [using] a variety of tactics over the years to keep students from voting. There are often too few voting machines, so lines stretch for hours. Sometimes, students are falsely told that they will lose financial aid, health care or even car insurance if they vote while attending school.
In Iowa, the suppression has been rhetorical. With Barack Obama’s campaign, in particular, urging students to come out for him, other campaigns have tried to put up roadblocks. . . Clinton said during a campaign stop that the process should be reserved for “people who live here, people who pay taxes here.” Chris Dodd seemed to imply that people who were “paying out-of-state tuition” and participating in the process were somehow being deceptive and unfairly casting themselves as Iowan.
Student are rightly up in arms about these statements. The law in Iowa is crystal clear: students who attend school in the state are entitled to register to vote in the state as long they are not registered anywhere else.
For myself, I would be happy with any vote where voter turnout was above 70% even if I absolutely hated the person who got elected. At least I would know that the person who got elected was elected by an active electorate who disagreed with me.
With regard to the results of the Democratic Caucuses I was surprised to learn that the actual vote count was never made public. In the words of the article:
Under the formulas used to apportion delegates, it is possible that the candidate with the highest percentage of delegate equivalents — that is, the headline “winner” — did not really lead in the “popular vote” at the caucuses. Further, it is possible that a second or third-tier candidate could garner a surprising 10 percent or 12 percent of the popular vote statewide and get zero delegates. . .
The press invests months in covering the caucuses. It and the public it serves are entitled at the end of the exercise to an unambiguous vote count, instead of delegate numbers that camouflage how much popular support each candidate earned.
Such practices serve as extra fodder for those who argue that Iowa is not representative of the nation and does not deserve to always take the lead in the process of selecting our president.