It’s Time for Change at the Iowa Caucus

Luke O'Connell, Editor-in-Chief

     Recently, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro dropped out of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination race. He claimed that Iowa and New Hampshire, the first states to vote, are “wonderful states with wonderful people, but they’re also not reflective of the diversity of our country, and certainly not reflective of the diversity of the Democratic Party.” The recent Iowa caucus fiasco, along with Iowa and New Hampshire’s lack of diversity, show that it is due time to change the electoral process.

Candidate Pete Buttigieg at a rally in Des Moines Iowa. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

     Castro is right when arguing the lack of diversity in Iowa and New Hampshire, as the states are respectively 90.7% and 93.2% “White Alone,” according to the United States Census Bureau. The lack of racial diversity in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary is incredibly damaging, as it severely underrepresents minority populations. In turn, this lack of representation is not only frustrating and unfair to those affected, but possibly alters the outcome of the first primaries, a crucial time for many candidates. 

     The first few primaries are often important for candidates, as they can indicate how the rest of the country may vote, which is why it is crucial for them to be indicative of how all racial groups may vote instead of people identified as “White Alone.” To have a more encompassing view of what the American people want, everyone’s opinion must be counted equally, and when two states whose populations are more than 90% white vote first, this can’t be achieved.

     On top of the large racial disparities, the Iowa caucus system has struggled in efficiency and accuracy, specifically during the 2020 election cycle. After the caucuses  occurred in early February, “inconsistencies” were found in voting numbers, specifically due to a new app that was introduced to help count votes around the state. Due to a “coding issue” in the app, “it was reporting out only partial data,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price. 

     The app’s coding issue not only made it harder to verify votes, it delayed the process extensively. Before the caucuses played out, Price said preliminary results would be coming back at around 9 p.m.. In reality, preliminary results came back at around 10:45 p.m. that night, with only 25% of precincts reporting compared to roughly 90% by the same time in 2016. As the rest of the precincts reported, it became clear that the race would be tight, and with 100% of precincts reporting, only a tenth of a percent separated South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg from Senator Bernie Sanders, making it nearly impossible to report a true winner from first-in-the-nation Iowa. The poorly run 2020 Iowa caucus is just another reason why changes need to be made to the system in place. 

     Due to Iowa and New Hampshire’s lack of diversity, along with Iowa’s poor performance in its 2020 caucuses, I propose that another more diverse, more influential state go first: California. California came in first in a WalletHub diversity report in which Iowa came 43rd and New Hampshire came 47th, and their population is only 72.1% “White Alone,” unlike Iowa and New Hampshire’s incredibly high numbers.

     Along with California’s high level of diversity compared to Iowa and New Hampshire, it makes up a larger percentage of the population, roughly 11.5% to be exact, which would not only make an early dent in the voting process, but also create a larger, more diverse sample size for hopeful nominees to base their campaigns on.

     Another solution would be to transition the Iowa caucus into a primary. This wouldn’t help with the problem of racial disparity, but it would make the voting process much simpler and more fair. Votes could be counted at the same precincts where caucusing occurred, and there would be less risk of voting “inconsistencies” because risky apps wouldn’t need to be used in order to tally votes. Overall, a change of some sort needs to be made in order to fix the Iowa caucusing system.