The 2016 presidential election is turning out to be a rather unusual one. For anyone unfamiliar with the American system, the 18 months leading up the general election can be confusing. The first step in the complicated process of naming a president is electing the nominees for each party. Each state determines for itself how and when it will vote for party nominees. Yesterday, all eyes were on Iowa as it held its caucuses. Small groups of voters met and their votes were converted into delegates for the party convention, where the nominees for the general election are chosen. Ted Cruz won the greatest number of republican delegates, while Hillary Clinton edged out Bernie Sanders by just one delegate.
The most noteworthy aspect of yesterday’s caucuses was not the candidates however- it was the voters. Particularly in the democratic race, every vote mattered. In multiple precincts in Iowa, delegates were assigned using a coin flip when voters were missing from the caucuses. Hillary Clinton won all five coin tosses- contributing to her extremely narrow margin of victory. Iowa is a small state that sets the tone for the primary races. Candidates change their tactics based on the results (with some even dropping out after poor performances), and the results of this race are extremely important.
In a country of 300 million, it’s easy to think individual votes don’t matter. Yesterday’s contest in Iowa was a demonstration that every single one does. I’m excited to be able to vote from England when my home state of Washington votes in May. Although we may vote in very different ways, doing so is essential to the democratic process in both the UK and the US.