Smooth sailing for Stanford caucus as Iowa Democratic Party scrambles to count results | News | Almanac Online |


Smooth sailing for Stanford caucus as Iowa Democratic Party scrambles to count results

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren leave with the most support, Amy Klobuchar gains last-minute turnout

Mikey Fischer, a precinct captain for presidential candidate Andrew Yang, holds a sign before the start of an Iowa satellite caucus at Stanford University on Feb. 3. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

On Monday, Stanford University hosted one of the first out-of-state "satellite," or remote, caucuses that brought 30 Iowa voters and a diverse crowd of curious observers.

Out of the 11 candidates who currently stand for the Democratic presidential nomination in November, only five were represented among the Iowa voters at Stanford: Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang.

Thirty registered Iowa voters gathered at Stanford's Haas Center for Public Service to participate in the caucus, a hands-on voting process where participants discuss and group together to help their party candidate grab delegates.

The results were already in view 15 minutes after the caucus commenced.

To the right side of the room, 24 Iowa voters were split into two groups, supporting Warren and Sanders. On the left, six Iowans were spread out between Biden, Yang and Klobuchar.

The Stanford location was just one of 87 satellite caucuses across the globe — from California to Tbilisi, Georgia — that were created in an effort by the Iowa Democratic Party to make the often time-consuming and inconvenient voting process more accessible.

And though there are subtle differences between satellite and in-state precinct caucuses, the overall process is the same: registered voters show up to a designated location to express their candidate preference by splitting into groups — known as the first alignment — and then regroup based on which group of candidate supporters were eliminated from the first round because they were "nonviable."

The viability of any candidate is determined by taking 15% of the total caucus participants.

Rounding a number up, the viability threshold of Monday night's caucus was five, meaning all candidates needed at least five voters to remain in the final round of grouping.

In the first round of grouping, the mostly young, college-educated set of participants quickly huddled together for Sanders or Warren. Fourteen voters stood with Sanders and 10 with Warren.

"I wasn't really surprised at the results," said Paula Sayago, a Stanford graduate and registered California voter who came to observe in hopes that it would guide her split decision between Warren and Biden. "Most of it is students, and it didn't really surprise anybody that students tend to lean more liberal."

But the two more progressive presidential candidates didn't speak for everyone.

Among the six Iowans left over, three voters went with Biden, two with Yang and one for Klobuchar: None of these groups was deemed viable because they didn't reach the 15% threshold.

After captains of each candidate made their case on why the remaining voters should choose their candidate, members of nonviable groups had only the next 15 minutes to decide whether they should stick with their candidate and persuade voters of other nonviable groups to join them; merge with any of the other four candidates; or give up their vote.

In the most surprising turn of events, Klobuchar's camp just barely met the 15% requirement, ending the night with five voters. Daniel Rebelsky, an 18-year-old Stanford freshman, was the sole Biden supporter who defected to the Sanders preference group.

"I found the Bernie arguments the most compelling, but I was open to switching if I had a particularly compelling argument from someone else," Rebelsky said. That could have included Klobuchar, Yang, Warren. ... In general, I would prefer not Trump, obviously."

If there was a singular moment of unison during the caucus, it was the Iowans' unanimous agreement that President Donald Trump had to be defeated in November.

"Beat Trump on three," said a Warren supporter as she snapped a picture of a group of Sanders supporters.

Based on the Iowa Democratic Party's delegate selection plan, the results of the Stanford caucus gave Warren and Sanders two delegates each and Klobuchar one delegate.

How that number compares with the rest of the state of Iowa is yet to be seen. Due to an overlooked error within the smartphone app caucus leaders had to use to send in the results, the state's Democratic Party was unable to release any caucus results, which remained unavailable as of mid-afternoon Tuesday.

"While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data," the Iowa Democratic Party said in a press release issued Tuesday. "We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed."

Many caucus leaders were also unable to send in the reports through a phone hotline due to an overwhelming amount of callers phoning in at the same time.

"It's very disappointing," Sayago said after hearing about the reporting errors. "It's just gonna make people feel unsure. ... I don't know if it's the beginning of the end of the caucus system."

But caucus chairwoman Ahmi Dhuna and secretary Nova Meurice felt confident about the turnout of their first-ever caucus as hosts and participants.

"I'm kind of relieved, said Meurice, a Stanford junior studying comparative literature. "I'm glad everything went smoothly (and) nothing bad erupted."

With their jobs as caucus leaders complete, the two Stanford students now anxiously face the 2020 presidential elections, which remains a very uncertain road ahead for all Democrats.

While Meurice wonders if she should put "less emotional stock" in the 2020 elections as she did in 2016, when she poured hundreds of hours volunteering for the Sanders and Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns, Dhuna hasn't even had the time to wrap her head around it.

"I might have a better answer to that question in a couple weeks when I can start thinking about the November election," Dhuna said.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Los Altos's State of Mind opening NYC-inspired pizza shop in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 13 comments | 7,772 views

Flying: How much is enough? It's personal.
By Sherry Listgarten | 12 comments | 2,502 views

Wait, wait – we’re working on it
By Diana Diamond | 17 comments | 2,020 views

My Pet Peeves
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 7 comments | 1,578 views

Goodbye toy stores
By Cheryl Bac | 3 comments | 803 views


Short story writers wanted!

The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 27, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

View Details