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Live from an Iowa satellite caucus

By Susan Jacob, Charles City

Prior to 2020 I have only participated in two Iowa caucuses.

For the first time ever I attended an Iowa caucus during the presidential election of 2008. To support the candidate that I wanted to have a shot at the presidency, I had to change my party affiliation. I registered as a Democrat so that I could vote for Hillary Clinton, and I haven’t looked back since. I attended the Iowa caucus again in 2016.

Live from an Iowa satellite caucus
Susan Jacob

The grassroots aspect of the Iowa caucus is unique because those in attendance determine party platform stances, take a straw-poll on the candidates, and then elect delegates to the county conventions who will take the results, ultimately, to the state and then national party conventions to pick candidates on our behalf.

When it was announced that remote caucus locations would be authorized outside Iowa in 2020, I was excited to be able to participate once again since we were planning to spend January and February in Arizona as snowbirds.

Living in Iowa, we get to hear every candidate because they all trek to our hometowns to speak to us face-to-face. I feel better informed so that I can vote for my preference on caucus night because I have heard the frontrunners live with my own ears.

When the satellite caucuses were announced, I went online and applied to participate in one of 99 locations around the world. Snowbirds in the Phoenix area were assigned to the home of Joan Koenigs in San Tan Valley.

After we arrived in Arizona, I saw an interview with Joan and her husband, my former state representative, Deo Koenigs. After early signups grew to beyond what they could hold in their home, the satellite location was moved to a nearby movie theater!

Upon walking into the Harkins Theatre Monday afternoon, I picked up my nametag and signed in. We were directed to Theater 1. Just inside there were workers for the various campaigns asking who you were caucusing for.

I had decided to vote with my heart instead of my head. I was a teacher; Elizabeth Warren was a teacher. They gave me a sticker with my candidate’s name on it. There were rows designated for each candidate, and I was directed to take a seat there.

Media interviews were being conducted in the theater lobby and all around the room where people were taking seats in their preferred candidate’s area.

Joan Koenigs from St. Ansgar, temporary chair of the satellite caucus, called for attention at 3:45 p.m. A total of 162 people had signed in, but two left after the first head count so revised total was now 160.

Joan, who was selected as caucus chairwoman, read a letter from Troy Price, Iowa Democratic Party chair, asking for unity to put an Iowa Democrat back in the Senate and a Democrat in White House.

Each candidate group then elected a captain, who had one minute to speak in favor of their candidate.

Next Joan explained the count. First is a head count. The presidential preference card next assures an accurate count to figure the viability threshold.

After the first viability threshold, people can leave before the second round. They only need to fill out their names and home cities on the preference card after viability is announced — that number will not change.

The chair announced that 15% is needed to be viable or 25. While the count was being taken, we were instructed to put our names and addresses on the first preference card.

Counters were four off so they had to do a recount in the first alignment. Once viability of a candidate was determined, people stood and counted off, group by group, to verify that 160 people were in attendance.

First preference cards were handed in and recounted by the captains. Then those in the nonviable groups moved to realign and filled out their second preference cards. People could leave after they handed in viable candidate cards and the tally came out correctly.

Here are the results:

Viable – first preference/second preference (number of delegates):

1) Klobuchar – 53/54 (3 delegates).
2) Buttigeg – 39/41 (2 delegates).
3) Biden – 30/33 (2 delegates).
4) Warren – 25/31 (2 delegates).
5) Uncommitted – 1/1.
6) Other – 1/1.

Not viable:

7) Sanders – 7.
8) Steyer – 2.
9) Bloomberg – 2.

Participants were asked to volunteer as delegates for their candidates. Delegates will not go to county conventions but will go to district conventions in April and the state convention in June.

There was no interest in discussing the platform planks after the final caucus results were announced. The process was completed in under two hours.

During the event the caucus leaders were in constant contact with Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines. Often they asked for clarifications of the rules and procedures, so I am confident the process was above board and operated correctly. I was pleased to be able to participate.