Today is the first day of CentreTerm. I’m teaching GOV 331: State and Local Politics. Since today is also the day of the famous Iowa caucuses, we talked about how the political choices of a single state (Iowa) and its local political culture (the caucuses) plays an influential role in the selection of a candidate for national office. Federalism at its finest.
As part of our class, we ran a simulation of the Iowa caucuses in our classroom at Centre College (The “Centre Caucuses”). We did two simulations: the first using the Republican procedure of a simple paper voting and the second using the Democratic procedure of congregating into groups and realigning into different groups after viability is determined (15% threshold). Even though we used the procedures from both parties, we used only the GOP candidates who are running this year as options in the simulation.
Using the GOP rules, here’s how our students voted (35 students total):
- Paul 25.7%
- Huntsman 25.7%
- Romney 20%
- Gingrich 11.4%
- “Uncommitted” 11.4%
- Santorum 2.9%
- Bachmann 2.9%
Under the Democratic rules, here’s how the delegates were distributed (Gingrich, Santorum, Bachmann and “uncommitted” were non-viable as they did not achieve the 15% threshold):
- Paul 40%
- Huntsman 30%
- Romney 30%
This shows that the rules matter. Different electoral systems produce different results even when the preferences of the voters are the same. In this case, the Iowa Democratic rules over-state the margin for the winning candidates and under-state for the losing candidates, while the Iowa GOP rules produce a more accurate representation of their voters.