Timing creates challenges for student participants

by Emily SchettlerStaff Writer

The Iowa caucuses are less than one month away and candidates are in campaign overdrive. Our first-in-the-nation caucuses have provided Simpson students with many opportunities to meet and even volunteer or intern for the different candidates.

To remain in the lead, Iowa has had to move the caucuses up 11 days, from Jan. 14 to Jan 3. This has caused problems for Simpson students who wish to participate because the caucuses now fall over winter break.

Offered a number of alternatives, some students have chosen to participate in their home counties.

Sophomore Casey Johnson is planning to caucus in his hometown and thinks that other students should consider it as well.

“We have this privilege of being first because the nation sees our state as being both fair-minded and politically engaged.” Johnson said. “As the youth of our state, it is important that we carry on this tradition. We mustn’t take for granted a privilege such as this which, once lost, would be sorely missed.”

For students who do not live in Iowa, participating in the caucuses is a little more difficult. Junior Justin Zenanko is driving four hours from Minnesota to support his candidate.

“Iowa is the place where most presidents are decided,” Zenanko said. “Usually if you place in the top three, you have a chance of winning the nomination. Anything I can do to help my guy [Rudy Guiliani R-NY} out I’m willing to do.”

Sophomore Jamie Corey from Illinois is coming back from winter break early so she can take part. Corey said she’s excited because a single vote could make a big difference.

“One person can sway the whole entire room, especially in small towns,” Corey said.

For freshman Steven Ramsey, the decision to return early from his home in Kansas City was about his priorities.

“Coming back early means I will have a few days less of work, but I believe that I can give up a few extra days to cast my vote for my choice for the democratic presidential nominee,” Ramsey said. “I believe that my vote is more influential in the Iowa caucus because it is the earliest and most important.”

Other out-of-state students have decided to participate in their state elections instead.

“There’s a lot of local elections that I’m going to vote for,” freshman Emily Davis said.

Davis, who’s from Kansas City, said she might come back early to watch the caucus and see how it works.

“It’s only a few days, and voting is very important in a country where we are able to,” Davis said.

According to Don Ruby, head of the Warren County Democrats, Simpson students have been active in past caucuses. Ruby estimated that 200 to 300 students attended the democratic caucus in 2004. He predicts a record turnout at the upcoming event even though students will not be around.

Even if students attend caucuses in their home counties, their impact could be less noticeable.

“The impact of the student vote will be diluted because they will be dispersed,” Ruby said. “When they’re in one location, they have a strength in numbers.”

Ruby also said that, of the candidates, Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has the most to lose from the loss of student caucus-goers.

Sophomore Kelcy Whitaker agreed, “I personally believe that Obama has quite a few college-aged supporters, and would imagine that his results could be impacted by the change of date.”

Any students who live on campus are eligible to register to vote in Warren County. People can register anytime at the County Auditor’s office or the night of the caucuses at the polling place. Those who wish to participate need to register with either the Democratic or Republican Party.