Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Caucus Results Should Not Be Determined by Coin Flips!

As the latest news unfolds out of Iowa it is becoming increasingly clear the Democrats in that state need to leave their whale oil lamps and covered Ticonderoga wagons behind and at least move into the 20th century with their caucuses! I mean, Jeezus Peace, using coin flips to determine outcomes?!

Good grief, the nature of the early Iowa caucus is not even remotely like the general election in November where we must have a winner (two presidents can't 'share' power). Also, given the Iowa Dem caucus is not 'winner take all'  it doesn't matter if precincts end up perfectly tied in some results. You simply allot the delegate votes equally - if odd in number in one precinct (e.g. 3) combine with another precinct or precincts with similar ties and split the results evenly. Better yet, chuck this whole antiquated system and replace it with the simpler caucus modality of the Iowa GOP, which just counts ballots.

As has reported:

"The results of the first caucus in the U.S. presidential primary election came down not to actual votes, but to a coin toss — or, rather, to multiple coin tosses."

As noted in the previous blog, Sen. Sanders and Hillary Clinton had a virtual tie in the Iowa caucus Monday night. With 99 percent of precincts reported, there was just a 0.2 percent difference; Sanders had 49.6 percent of statewide delegate equivalents, and Clinton had 49.8 percent.  The Iowa Democratic Party said the results were “the closest in Iowa Democratic caucus history.” Because they were tied, in order to determine who would get the delegates, coin tosses were reportedly held in at least seven precincts. There were two coin tosses in Des Moines and four more in Ames, Newton, West Branch and Davenport, the Des Moines Register reported. Clinton won all of these.  

But why determine outcomes by coin tosses? The answer inheres in the nature of the antiquated caucus process held by Iowa Dems.  Rather than counting actual popular votes like the GOP, only percentages are assessed at a given caucus by a precinct captain. As I noted in a previous blog post, caucus goers assemble in distinct groups to support their candidate at different precincts. Each group must reach at least 15 percent or it is "non-viable" . Hence, O'Malley's supporters were quickly left non-viable at all precincts so either had to join an "undecided" group or merge with Sanders or Clinton's. It is clear from seeing the course of events that 0.5% of O'Malley supporters remained but never joined to the extent that the respective percentage support for the two main candidates could be broken. To resolve the percentage equivalences for Sanders and Clinton, at least seven precinct captains resorted to coin tosses. (Another video, which the Des Moines Register did not report on, also emerged, showing a seventh coin toss in Johnson County.)

But this was not Las Vegas, it was a venue for election, a democratic process - not a random one. To have therefore awarded Hillary the overall  'win' by virtue of taking 6 of 7 random coin flips going was an abomination and an affront to democratic principles.

The events Monday night clearly call out not only for a full investigation by Sanders's' team but also the Iowa Dems changing their caucus procedures to make them consistent with those used by the GOP. As I also noted, the GOP caucus goers also assemble, and may listen to a brief spiel for one or other candidate, but at the end simply write the names down on ballots and tabulate them. 'Ties' are averted by the simple expedient of blending caucus vote counts from different precincts if, for example, all the numbers are equal at one precinct. They don't do coin tosses.

Clinton ultimately got 700.59 state delegate equivalents, while Sanders got 696.82 state delegate equivalents, a mere 3.77 point difference, according to the Iowa Democratic Party. In other words, although six is a small fraction of the thousands of overall county delegates, these coin tosses — all of which Clinton reportedly won (despite the low probability)  - effectively pushed her over the edge, giving her the extra statewide delegate equivalents that granted her an additional Iowa delegate.

 It is time now that Iowa Democrats raise a hue and a cry and demand the absurd caucus procedures -  including the "tradition" of delegate equivalents - be put to rest and  instead employ simpler direct paper ballot tabulations like the Republicans. We don't need cumbersome, draconian baloney in  our voting processes and we sure as hell don't need random chance determining winners at the level of state caucuses!

See also:


No comments: