What’s the Matter With Iowa?

OpinionJournal – John Fund on the Trail

Caucuses occur only at a fixed time at night, so that many people working odd hours can’t participate. They can easily exceed two hours. There are no absentee ballots, which means the process disfranchises the sick, shut-ins and people who are out of town on the day of the caucus. The Democratic caucuses require participants to stand in a corner with other supporters of their candidate. That eliminates the secret ballot.

There are reasons for all this. The caucuses are run by the state parties, and unlike primary or general elections aren’t regulated by the government. They were designed as an insiders’ game to attract party activists, donors and political junkies and give them a disproportionate influence in the process. In other words, they are designed not to be overly democratic. Primaries aren’t perfect. but at least they make it fairly easy for everyone to vote, since polls are open all day and it takes only a few minutes to cast a ballot.

Little wonder that voter turnout for the Iowa caucuses is extremely low–in recent years about 6% of registered voters. Many potential voters will proclaim their civic virtue to pollsters and others and say they will show up at the caucus–and then find something else to do Thursday night.

I was always disappointed that Delaware’s last presidential caucus was in 1992 before I really got involved with politics (and I didn’t turn 18 until later that year). As unsavory as the article quoted above makes the process seem, it would have been interesting to go through it at least once just for the experience.

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