Yes the headline is correct. And only 3.69% of Iowa’s registered voters turned out for John Edwards and only 3.66% for Hillary Clinton. The Iowa caucus system is a crazy system for picking a new President. As the New York Times notes today in an editorial entitled “Let it Start Now“; now is a good time to look forward and work for a better process next time.
The Iowa Secretary of State’s website listed some 1,922,235 active registered voters as of 1/3/2008. This number was the total based on figures for each Congressional District.
The Iowa Caucus results as released by the Iowa State Democratic Party are not actual vote totals or a tally of votes cast for specific candidates. According to the Washington Post “Instead of reporting the actual number of caucus voters, the Iowa Democratic Party releases an estimated number of delegates to the state party convention that each candidate will receive based on their proportional support in the caucuses”
Accordingly the Iowa State Democratic Party reported that Barrack Obama received 37.57% of the delegates, John Edwards 29.75% and Hillary Clinton 29.47%. These are the adjusted figures after delegates realigned their votes if their candidate did not meet a minimum 15% threshold figure to qualify for a delegate.
According to the Iowa State Democratic Party some 239,000 voters participated in the Democratic caucuses and some 115,000 voters participated in the Republican caucus.
So overall some 363,000 of Iowa’s 1,922,235 active registered voters participated in the caucuses. This is equal to 18.9% of all the registered voters.
Iowa does register people by party. From the Secretary of State figures there were 575,949 registered Republicans, 605,052 registered Democrats and 741,231 registered Independents.
The result is that some 39.5% of registered Democrats and 20% of registered Republicans participated in the caucuses. Overall participation was significantly higher than in previous caucuses.
Iowa does allow same day party registration so people could register at the caucuses on Jan 3rd. This law actually just went into effect on Jan 1, 2008. I do not know how many actually took advantage of this, but news reports attributed an active effort by some of the candidates to draw new voters into the caucuses process. Barrack Obama made a strong effort to appeal to independents to participate in the Democratic caucus and was successful.
Even so the results when viewed in the context of overall voter participation of 363,000 caucuses attendees out of 1,922,235 active registered voters gives a participation rate of only 18.9%.
And the initial figures I gave above showed that only about 4.67% of Iowa voters wound up supporting Barrack Obama. (239,000 x 37.58% / 1,922,235 = 89,818 voters for Obama/1,922,235 total voters = 4.67% of total voters supporting Obama in the Iowa caucuses.)
The same calculation for Edwards showed him receiving the support of about 3.69% of Iowa voters and Clinton receiving support from about 3.66% of Iowa voters.
Obama won Iowa by the rules in play and is to be congratulated as are Edwards and Clinton for their strong showing.
The point I want to make is that even so, the caucuses are a limiting process in selecting candidates. The numbers support this in that participation levels are much lower than with Presidential Primaries and there is no absentee ballot voting for those that can’t attend because they have to work or are disabled or are in the military or are out of state for work or vacation or school. Caucus rules for Iowa only allowed you to vote if you were physically present.
The race for President is far from over. Iowa’s process and voter makeup is far from ideal in gaging how a candidate will fare in the national November 2008 election. The way the selection process is this year, Feb 5th will be the biggest test facing the viability of the candidates remaining at that time. Over 20 states, including New York, California, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Illinois and New Jersey will vote that day.
Between now and Feb 5, 2008, voters in New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida will vote. You can track the list of state, dates and results at the New York Times Election Guide page.
Iowa leads off the 2008 Presidential Sweepstakes with its caucus on Thursday January 3, 2008. Last night New Hampshire settled on having their primary on Tuesday January 8, 2008.
New Hampshire’s decision announced by their Secretary of State, came after the Michigan Supreme Court by a 4 to 1 vote on Wednesday gave the go ahead for Michigan Democrats and Republicans to hold their primary on January 15, 2008.
As the NY Times notes, “New Hampshire law dictates that it hold the first primary in the nation, which it has done since 1920, and the Jan. 8 date makes the 2008 primary the state’s earliest ever.
This year, the primary calendar has been nothing short of a mess, with states leapfrogging one another’s contests, and the national parties imposing penalties on states that scheduled their primaries before party rules allowed. Michigan, for instance, could lose half of its Republican delegates and all of its Democratic ones”.
You can click here to view the current 2008 Democratic Primary schedule.
You can click here to view the current 2008 Republican Primary schedule.
Washington State Democrats will hold their precinct caucuses on Saturday February 9, 2008 to start the process to select delegates to the Democratic National Convention to be held in Denver, Colorado on August 25 -28, 2008.
Washington State Democrats hold a series of conventions for the delegates selected at the precinct caucuses. These include:
Precinct Caucuses – Saturday February 9, 2008
Legislative District Conventions – Saturday April 5, 2008
County Conventions – Saturday April 19, 2008
Congressional District Conventions – Saturday May 17, 2008
Washington State Convention – June 14 & 15, 2008 – Spokane, Washington
Click on this link for a summary and rules of the Democratic delegate selection process.
Washington State will also hold a Presidential Primary on February 19, 2008. It will not be used by the Democrats to select delegates but it will allow a lot more people an opportunity to vote for who they would like to see nominated for President by the Democrats. The Republican Party will select half of their delegates based on the vote by people selecting a Republican ballot on February 19, 2008.
In what is continuing to be an absurd leapfrogging process, Iowa’s Governor Chet Culver has ruled out moving Iowa’s caucus to December of this year. According to the Washington Post, some of Iowa’s politicians had proposed that in response to the actions reported yesterday of South Carolina Republicans moving their primary to January 19, 2008.
For the record no moves at this time are being considered in Washington state to compete with the Holiday shopping season or Christmas on Tuesday December 25th, 2007, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or New Year’s Day on Tuesday January 1, 2008.
Meanwhile Iowa’s Governor Culver is quoted as saying that, “The bottom line is Iowa will have the first caucus and we’re going in January.” As the Washington Post reports:
“Culver said Iowa would work with New Hampshire officials to find mutually agreeable dates for their contests and acknowledged that both states might need to be flexible in terms of the spacing between the caucuses and the primary — by Iowa law eight days — and the days of the week when the events are held. He also said Iowa officials will take into account holiday travel and disruptions and seek to avoid scheduling the caucuses on New Year’s day.
Asked if he expects the Nevada caucuses to be held between events in Iowa and New Hampshire, he said, “They are now.” Asked if he cared whether that remains the case, he said, “I do care”.”
Current Iowa law requires that Iowa hold its caucus 8 days before any other state. The Politico reports that Governor Culver would change the state law if necessary to keep its caucus in 2008. The issue is further complicated because New Hampshire also has a law requiring that it hold its primary 7 days before any other primary.
“The dominoes were set tumbling this week when South Carolina Republicans announced they were moving up their primary to Jan. 19, a Saturday.
According to New Hampshire law, the Granite State would then have to hold its primary at least seven days before, which would mean Jan. 12 or before. But Jan. 12 is a Saturday and New Hampshire has always held its primaries on Tuesday, meaning New Hampshire would probably move to Jan. 8, forcing Iowa into 2007. Politico learned, however, that New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner would, for the first time, consider a date other than a Tuesday. With Culver’s pledge to change state law if he has to, all three states might be able to wedge into January. “
Washington State is scheduled to hold a Presidential Primary on Feb 19, 2007. Republicans will allocate 51% of their delegates according to the vote. Washington State Democrats will allocate none from this vote. Instead they will allocate delegates based on a rather complicated caucus process that starts on Feb 9, 2007 and culminates in the bulk of the delegates being selected at Congressional District caucuses on Saturday May 17, 2008. The remainder are decided by an “Election Committee” based on credentials on Sunday June 17, 2007.
Washington State Republicans are also slated to hold their preliminary caucus on Feb. 9, 2008
We have previously written about our concerns with the caucus selection process by the Democrats to select delegates to The Democratic National Convention and their ignoring the results of the Washington State Presidential Primary that was set up by an initiative to the Legislature, Initiative 99. Initiative 99 was enacted into law by the Washington State Legislature in 1989.
The stumbling block for the Washington State Democrats participating in the Presidential Primary has to do with the fact that Washington State does not require voters to declare a Party affiliation when they register to vote. Until recently in regular elections Washington State had a blanket primary where you could vote for any candidate for office, whether a Republican or Democrat. That has changed in that you can only vote for a specific party in the primary now but there is still no official party registration.
Many grassroots Democrats like the caucus process but the vote by the Washington State Democratic Central Committee on April 29, 2007 was not unanimous . The Seattle Times reported the vote as being 119 to 42 to support the caucus over the primary to select delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
If the Washington State Democrats want to be more sincere about involving the public in the process of picking the Democratic nominee for President they need to include a plank in their state platform supporting voter registration by party.
Otherwise it is just a little too convenient to use the existing non-party voter registration process in Washington State as an excuse to hold a caucus which severely limits voters being able to participate in what one might characterize as the ultimate American voting experience – electing a President of the United States.
See “Presidential Primary Makes Sense” for more discussion on this issue.
Other questions about the Presidential Primary process in Washington State are answered at “Presidential Primary FAQ” and “Presidential Primary Background Paper” which are posted on the Washington Secretary of State’s website.
One of the more updated sites keeping track of the changing dates of the 2008 Presidential Primaries and Caucuses is at Stateline.org
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