Sanders, Warren split delegates in satellite Iowa caucus

Monday, February 3, 2020 - 8:54pm

Nine Iowans participate in a satellite caucus held at the Ann Arbor Public Library Monday evening.

Nine Iowans participate in a satellite caucus held at the Ann Arbor Public Library Monday evening. Buy this photo
Ryan Little/Daily

As Iowans cast the nation’s first votes in the 2020 Democratic Presidential primaries Monday night, Iowa residents living in Michigan descended on the Ann Arbor District Library for the state’s only satellite caucus. Ann Arbor joined 86 other satellite locations from as far as Paris, France open to Iowa Democrats living out of the state, as part of a wider effort by the Iowa Democratic Party to expand accessibility in the caucus process. 

The final delegate count for the satellite caucus was two delegates for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, and two delegates for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Those delegates will be factored in proportion with results from the other satellite caucuses

Nine Iowa Democrats were caucusing, with more than 30 non-Iowan community members observing. One observer, LSA sophomore Neil Jain, said he came because he’s impressed with the caucus system of selecting a candidate. 

“Democracy is about having these conversations,” Jain said. “It’s about dissent and disagreement and being able to work out and discuss those differences instead of being able to hide away in our own little cubicles filling out ballots. I’m here to see how the process unfolds on a microscopic level.”

Non-Iowan supporters representing former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sanders, Warren and entrepreneur Andrew Yang courted voters before the caucus began. Many carried signs and wore shirts and pins supporting their candidate. However, most Iowans, including Engineering senior Alex Skillin, had already made up their mind coming into the caucus.

“I’m pretty well behind Warren and I have been for a while following the process,” Skillin said. “I was back in Iowa over break and saw a town hall or two.” 

In the first round of preferences, five Iowans supported Warren, three voters supported Sanders and one supported Buttigieg.  

Due to Iowa Democratic Party rules, Buttigieg and the other candidates who received less than 15 percent of the initial vote were deemed “non-viable” for the caucus in Ann Arbor. The Warren and Sanders supporters had a fifteen-minute period to try to convince the lone Buttigieg supporter, Law School student Michael Goodyear, to join their group. This realignment period took up the majority of the time in the caucus, and Goodyear was resistant to odes from the Sanders and Warren groups. 

“I’m a fan of Buttigieg’s moderate policies,” Goodyear said. “I went through all the platforms online and Buttigieg’s are all extremely well thought out. As a law student, I like that there are footnotes that have actual sources for everything and credible depth to a lot of policies.”

Goodyear ultimately decided to abstain from voting rather than join the Sanders or Warren groups after the realignment period. 

“It felt odd, like my vote wasn’t counting,” Goodyear said. “Caucuses are a very different experience but certainly not the most democratic. It was great for the 19th century but not so great for the 21st.”

Before the caucus, LSA freshman Andrew Schaeffler told The Daily that close to half of the satellite caucus locations are in college towns like Ann Arbor. 

“It’s really cool for college students who are registered Iowa Democrats to have their voices heard,” Schaeffler said. “It’s a phenomenal job by the Iowa Democratic Party to put the focus on students … since it’s not a primary system in which they can just cast an absentee ballot.”

After the caucus, Iowan Joanna Courteau reflected on the differences between the traditional Iowa caucuses she’s attended since 1976 and the new satellite caucus. 

“The participants in a regular caucus totally outnumber observers and media people,” Courteau said. “They’re really involved and there’s a lot of haggling going on and a lot of persuading the non-aligned people. People today were so polite with the Pete Buttigieg guy.”

Every Iowan caucusing Monday night, beside Courteau, were University students. Courteau, who splits time between Ann Arbor and Aimes, Iowa, was grateful for the large student presence. 

“I am trying as hard as I can to pass the torch to the younger generation,” Courteau said. “Seeing them be involved, them being interested is really important to me.” 

Reporter Calder Lewis can be reached at calderll@umich.edu