Excitement and tension built as 284 people waited to see if the candidate they came out to support would take the majority number of delegates at the precinct.
McKinley Middle School hosted the democratic caucus for precinct 36 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Feb. 1. The precinct has seven delegates, which are divided up by the candidates that prove to be viable. A candidate needs to have 15% of the total number of people at the precinct to be viable.
Upon arrival parking is an issue because a large number of people are present to caucus. The best option is a parking spot I create in a vacant lot about a block away.
To enter the middle school there is a long line of people. It is now 6:30 and Iowans are lined up, standing outside in the 31 degree cold to caucus for their favorite candidate. Once inside the door it is clear that McKinley is scheduled to host precinct 26 as well. The congestion at the entrance is explained.
The line extended inside with the wind blowing in through the open door exposing the caucus-goers to the February chill. After the division of the precincts – precinct 36 to go downstairs to the cafeteria and precinct 26 to go upstairs to the auditorium – precinct 36 people are divided by registered and unregistered voters. Then the registered voters are separated by alphabet with the A-L people on the right and the M-Z people to the left.
While in line it offered an opportunity for people to communicate with neighbors about the candidates, their families and goings on in the neighborhood. A few of the neighbors I had a chance to talk with were all recognized by their dogs.
At 7:00 the lines were still exploding out the door. Any participant in line could still take part in the caucus. Once the line made it inside no more people were able to participate. By 7:30 people were still in the line and the doors were closed.
While waiting in line a third grader expressed to me her excitement to be at the caucus. She proudly attended with her mom in support of Clinton.
The check-in process consisted of telling the precinct volunteer your name, signing in and marking which candidate you plan to caucus for.
The space at McKinley did not easily hold the 284 people who showed up to caucus. At one point people were asked to give up their chairs for others who cannot stand for long periods of time.
The people who showed up to caucus at precinct 36 ended up being double the amount of people than expected. The event is chaotic with a lot of people and a lack of organization. But many people are expressing enthusiasm to be supporting their candidates.
In the adjoining room there are kids playing basketball, making it hard to hear what is taking place. I understand we are waiting for everyone to be checked in.
People are standing around chatting with neighbors, making friends and reconnecting with others.
284 people have checked in, which means each candidate will require 43 people to be viable. We are told to separate by the candidate we are supporting.
At 8:00 the registered voters in each area are counted. This process takes a while because the number needs to be precise. The number comes back with Clinton receiving 134, Sanders 134 and O’Malley 16. Since O’Malley did not attain enough votes to be viable, they are instructed to pick another candidate or their vote will not count. By 8:40 a decision will have to be made by the O’Malley camp.
The O’Malley supporters wanted stay with their candidate, but aren’t able to come up with enough people to be viable. The Clinton side offers a deal to the O’Malley group that both the Clinton and Sanders groups should each give the O’Malley side enough people so O’Malley can be viable.
Our precinct would then have one delegate for O’Malley, three for Clinton and three for Sanders. But the Sanders group will not agree to the deal so the O’Malley group decided to join the Clinton side. Everyone in the Clinton group cheered with delight with the news of the O’Malley group joining.
In the Clinton camp the final count is 144 and Sanders attained 140.
Sanders supporters initiate the need for a recount. The Clinton supporters agree to comply. The Sanders side erupts and the supporters are divided with the decision for a recount. A decision is eventually made that a recount is unnecessary and Clinton wins the precinct.
Every registered voter present is accounted for. Hillary Clinton took the majority vote, earning her four delegates from precinct 36. Sanders took three delegates from the precinct in second place. O’Malley supporters did not drum up enough support to become viable.