On February 1, 2016, Graceland students joined Iowans across the state in being the first to vote in the nation for the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. For many students, it was their first time voting at all, and many out-of-state students were unfamiliar with caucusing. At the Republican caucus, voters gathered and listened to representatives talk about each candidate, followed by a time for anyone to speak on behalf of who they were voting for. For some, hearing about each candidate before voting was a valuable experience. Christopher Walch actually changed who he was planning to vote for based on what he heard from the candidate representatives. After the speeches, voters used a ballot to choose who they wanted to elect as the Republican candidate. Two of the representatives were interrupted during their speeches by an audience member who disagreed with the candidate’s opinions, but Devin Rose and Caitlin Weeks agreed that they would definitely go to a caucus again. Devin says, “Aside from the outbursts, it was an excellent experience.”
Kyle West described the Republican caucus as “very educational. Not only did I hear information that I thought was of interest, but I got to think more about some issues. This was my first caucus, and I’m glad I went because I will probably never get to experience one again, as I will likely never call Iowa my permanent home.” Kylie Malmberg agrees. “It was a great experience for young people learning about government, especially if you’re not from Iowa and typically wouldn’t get to participate in something like this.” Ross Robino found it interesting how “the voting process is public instead of private, like in a primary.”
A number of students turned out to vote at the caucuses, with most attending the Democratic caucus. Kate Ytell was impressed by the student turn out. “It was really cool to see people from town, teachers, and students all come together.” At the Democratic caucus, participants split up into groups by candidate, then convinced others to join them. If any candidate’s group was too small, the individuals in that group had to join another group. At the end of the night, whichever candidate had the most people in their group was declared the winner of that precinct. Erin Reynolds said, “It’s a cool process. It’s so much different from just getting into a booth and casting your vote. You get to feel the energy behind each campaign. I feel it’s a stronger representation of democracy.” Alice Nelms also talked about “the energy” in the room. She says, “I would definitely do it again!” Brett Hall, who attended the Democratic caucus, said, “I think both candidates came out and had strong supporters, but in the end, Bernie Sanders won with very large student body support.”
After Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton got second place in the Lamoni precinct. The Republican results for the Lamoni caucus reveal Marco Rubio as the winner, followed by Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Ben Carson. Lamoni’s results differ from the state as a whole. Hillary Clinton won the state caucuses with Bernie Sanders at her heels, while Ted Cruz won the Republican vote, followed by Donald Trump and Marco Rubio.