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Coin Toss Caucus a Flippant Affair


Even amid the endless buzz around Donald Trump’s verbal dribble, this year’s Democratic Iowa caucus was certainly one of the more talked-about events of the 2016 presidential race. With Clinton and Sanders so close in the votes, the caucus went to the most archaic, immature form of resolution: a coin toss.

It is easy to imagine this event taking place in an oafish manner, with befuddled caucus organizers shrugging at each other as one problem-solver pulls a coin out of his pocket and asks, “Flip for it?” However, it is important to remember the many grey areas in the event. These coin flips are employed very rarely, and are a result of the complicated structure of the Democratic side of the caucus.

“While the Republican caucuses are fairly simple— voters can leave shortly after they declare their preferences—Democratic caucuses can require more time and multiple candidate preferences from participants,” said New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor. “They do not conform to the one-person, one-vote rule, because votes are weighted according to a precinct’s past level of participation. Ties can be settled by coin toss or picking names out of a hat.”

There is no such thing as a black-and-white vote when it comes to the Democratic side of the Iowa caucus. There is a lot of estimation that goes on, and when there is an odd number of delegates, the coin toss is used.

Then, of course, there is the issue of Clinton’s incredible luck during the toss. Clinton did win six out of six of the coin tosses, as various sources reported, but there were about a dozen of these coin tosses done to determine a winner and Sanders, too, won a number of them.

So with a bit more research, it becomes more convincing that Clinton didn’t simply swipe the Iowa vote out from under Sanders’ deserving feet.

However, the amount of estimation that goes into the democratic side of the Iowa caucus is immense, which is a bit disturbing considering how important Iowa is to the whole presidential election.

Iowa is the first state to vote and, thus, is a deciding factor for the rest of the election. “The level of support a candidate receives in Iowa gives a reasonable indication of how they will perform with the rest of American voters,” said Josh Clark, author of the How Stuff Works article “Why Is The Iowa Caucus So Important?”

“If middle-American Iowans support a candidate, then that candidate has a chance with the rest of the nation. The results from the Iowa caucus tell a candidate whether his or her platform is desirable. And the Iowa caucus is so important that some candidates bow out of the race if they do poorly in Iowa,” Clark said.

The point is, there is a lot at stake for all of the candidates at the Iowa caucus, and the amount of grey areas and estimation that goes into determining the winner of the Democratic side is concerning. But don’t think that this is the last time Americans will see a coin toss—Iowa is one of about a dozen states who uses the method.

—Mariah Taylor

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