Caucusing around campus: Democratic

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Caucusing around campus: Democratic

CLINTON OLSASKY, News Editor

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Students herded into the Maucker Union Monday night to caucus for their Democratic candidate; the turnout was so large that the process began almost an hour behind schedule.

A long line consisting mostly of UNI students had already wrapped around the entire food court inside the Union by the time the doors opened at 6:30 p.m. Registering first-time voters pushed the official start time to 7:49, and the event ended at 9:02. The official entry count was 306 for one of the two precincts housed in the Union.

Sophomore graphic technologies major, Ross Hellman, was surprised by the lengthy process.

“Coming into it, I thought it was going to be really enjoyable and kind of speedy,” Hellman said. “I actually got kind of the exact opposite in essence. I feel like there can be a more time-efficient way of doing it, similar to what the Republican Party does with theirs—like a straw poll. But I can see the reasons why the Democratic Party caucuses this way. I just think it’s a little outdated.”

Despite the wait, the many first-time caucus-goers were enthusiastic and optimistic.

Junior political communication major, Sam Blatt, was a first-time caucus-goer supporting Bernie Sanders.

“I expect to see a lot of people learn how to caucus for the future, because it’s a lot of people’s first caucus,” Blatt said. “I also expect a really big turnout for Bernie…Honestly, if all college students that say they support Bernie actually come out for voter turnout and do caucus for him, I think he’ll have a really good chance.”

Emma Wright, sophomore English major, was caucusing Monday night for Hillary Clinton. She was also a first time caucus-goer.

“I have no idea what to expect,” Wright said before the caucus. “I went with my grandmother to caucus for Hillary in 2008, but I don’t really remember much. I’m just looking forward to seeing how the whole process works.”

The Union was the site for two Democratic precincts — one for those living in off-campus apartments and one for UNI students who live in residence halls on the south side of campus, which the Northern Iowan attended.

The scene at Union Ballroom became chaotic when the 300-plus caucus-goers began forming groups for Sanders, Clinton and Martin O’Malley.

A large majority of the participants almost instantaneously formed a group in support of Sanders with a group of a few dozen people in support of Clinton, while less than a dozen UNI students initially gathered in support of O’Malley.

When it was clear that Sanders had taken the precinct by a landslide, the group of Sanders supporters broke out in brief, but rather loud, “Bernie” chants. They were instructed to take their seats in an orderly manner in order to tally the number of supporters for each respective candidate.

Sanders came away with 253 supporters of the 306 people in attendance. Clinton and O’Malley earned 36 and three supporters, respectively, thereby failing to qualify for viability.

Five of the precinct’s delegates went to Sanders, while one delegate remained uncommitted. The delegates will go on to the county convention in March 12.

While the high turnout on Monday night certainly contributed to delays and longer caucuses, Sanders supporter and elected delegate, Clayton Ryan, predicted a higher voter turnout in the future.

“What Bernie’s doing is kind of igniting this fire under the people to get involved again because he unites the campaign – that it doesn’t matter your religion, your race, where you’re from, what you do,” Ryan said. “We can all play a part in the way our politics go. It’s good to see Americans start to care again. And Bernie – even if he doesn’t win the election, he’s still starting a trend that’s going to change the course of our politics for good.”

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