Thursday, February 4, 2016

Where Does Fault Lie with the Iowa Caucus?

Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are not too happy with the outcome of the Iowa caucus. However, Sanders has a much better argument than Trump. Trump is merely a whining sore loser with no substance behind his arguments. In the Iowa caucus it is permissible to try to win over voters. Therefore, the fact that CNN broke a story that Carson was going home, it is fair game for the Cruz camp to use this information to claim that Carson does not have staying power. Instead, what should anger Trump is that both he and Rubio received the same number of state delegates despite beating him by 1.5%. In fact, Kasich and Fiorina received a delegate despite failing to get 2% of the vote. At that rate, both Kasich and Fiorina would have gotten over 14 delegates for the same percentage of the vote which Cruz received. But Cruz only received 8 delegates. Kasich and Fiorina received less than half the vote as Rand Paul, but Paul only received one 1 delegate as well. My point, delegates are not handed out proportionally based on the popular vote.

The Democratic side of the Iowa caucus is even more confusing. They do not use raw vote, instead they appoint precinct delegates based on the secretive popular vote results. Hence, the person who won the popular vote may not receive as many precinct delegates and lose the state. The Democrats have 44 state wide delegates in Iowa and both Clinton and Sanders should have each received 22 since the results were a statistical tie. However, Clinton received 23. Even further confusing matters, precincts with statistical ties had the extra precinct delegate determined by a coin flip. For instance, if a precinct had 2 delegates and the results were tied than both would receive 1 delegate. However, if that same precinct had 3 delegates, a coin flip was used to determine where the 3rd delegate went. It seems Clinton won a majority of the coin flips across the state. Luck should not determine the next president. It would have been fairer to split all “extra” delegates once the results of all precincts were known. Under this scenario, it is plausible to have one coin flip instead of 10 or more. But what is even more puzzling is that the raw vote is not even considered on a state wide level. Sanders definitely has a beef.

In Baker v. Carr in 1962, the Supreme Court made the famous ruling: “One person, one vote”. This ruling made it unconstitutional for branches of state legislature to be determined by any other means than by population. Of course this violates the Constitution because our president is determined through the Electoral College (it is possible to win the popular vote but lose the election) and each state has two senators regardless of the population of those states (Hence, Wyoming has just as much clout as California despite having 100 times less people). It was a bad decision, but Baker v. Carr is the law. And the presidential primary system violates this law on so many levels. The delegate system mentioned above is one example. Delegates are not allocated proportionally based on the popular vote; in some cases the popular vote is not even considered; and in other cases delegates can be assigned on pure luck.

When the 2016 election cycle started, there were 17 Republican candidates and 5 Democratic candidates. Thus far, only Iowa has cast ballots, and the field has been narrowed by 50% - 9 Republicans and 2 Democrats. Iowa cast about 300,000 ballots in 2016 caucus (a record – but still only about 20% of their total electorate – in the 2012 general election over 1.5 million ballots were cast in Iowa). Hence, one can say the people in Iowa have a greater impact on the Presidential election. In other words, their vote counts more than people residing in the other 49 states or the District of Columbia. After the New Hampshire primary (100,000 votes) the field may dwindle further. The earlier the state votes in the primary process, the more powerful the vote of its citizens. The primary process may try to imply it follows the “one person, one vote” concept, but it is obvious the votes amongst the U.S. populous are not equal and this violates the intent of Baker v. Carr.

Yes, both Sanders and Trump have a legitimate beef with the results. But only Sanders claims makes sense because his argument is based on the “one person, one vote” concept. Trump is not upset with the violation of the “one person, one vote” concept. He is upset that he lost and is making up incoherent arguments that no court in the United States would accept.

FYI, the “One person, one vote” concept will be reinterpreted by the Supreme Court this spring. The question they will answer is does “one person, one vote” apply to the voting population or the entire population (the latter is how it has been applied up to now)?

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