OSKALOOSA — On February 1, 2016, Mahaska county voters will converge upon several locations within the county to demonstrate support for presidential candidates. Location information may be found at the Mahaska County Courthouse.
Democrats and Republicans disagree on many things, including the methods of caucusing, but do agree on one issue: Getting out there and making your voice heard. “I would suggest if people have not been to caucus before, don’t be intimidated,” said Republican co-chair, Jaron Vos.. “It’s interesting and friendly and a great example of the American view of government; where it’s for the people, by the people and of the people.”
Eric Palmer, Democratic chair, shared that view. “I really encourage people to get out there and participate, no matter their party. Be a good citizen and make the country better.”
The Democrat style of caucusing is doing it right out in the open. “We identify ourselves. You stand up and go to the corner where your candidate is,” said Palmer. “That’s the main thing, choosing your candidate.
It’s also a time to bring forward planks for county, district and state convention; to bring up issues.”
“The Republicans provide an opportunity for someone to speak for each candidate to try to win the votes of the caucus-goers for the candidate the speaker is supporting,” said Vos. “After everyone has had a chance to speak, we take votes on paper ballots and simply count the totals.”
Whether or not you are decided on what candidate to support, everyone is encouraged to participate.“We wouldn’t want people who are undecided to stay home,” said Vos. “As you know, at the caucuses, your neighbors and friends will stand up and give their opinions on who to vote for. If you’re undecided at the time of the caucuses, come and listen to your neighbors and make your decision at that time.”
Palmer encouraged those who caucus to some research. “Go to the various candidates’ websites and find out who the local contact is if they still have questions, and just look at the general platforms of each candidate. It’s a question of informing themselves.”
Democrats and Republicans both ultimately want what’s best for the American people, but may differ on what that is and how to get there. “I think what [Democrats] are looking out for is the middle class,” said Palmer. “We’re trying to ensure people get treated fairly. We look out for folks that need our help. We’re concerned about good government, a government that protects people and gives them protections both through the military and good regulations and so on, but also a chance to achieve the American Dream. People don’t feel they’re being looked out for or listened to.”
“We represent people who want to see a limited federal government and a return to Constitutional rule of law; see power returned to a local level, and we support the Bill of Rights and religious and economic liberty. That covers most of the bases,” said Vos.
Caucusing is one of the first steps toward the presidential elections, with each vote sending a message.
“It’s incredibly important to vote,” said Vos. “Especially being first in the nation, we’re going to set the tone, and we’re going to make a major field to whittling the field candidates. A lot of the country — and the world — is going to be watching the results of the caucus. Until now, it’s just been polling numbers, and polling numbers are not necessarily representative of who is going to be the nominee. It’s the votes that count.”
“We have a lot of rights in this country, but I think we also have duties, and one of those duties is to participate,” said Palmer. “The only way that the type of government we have can succeed is if people take an active role. One of the ways is to get involved in politics and vote. We have rights, but we also have obligations, and it requires us as citizens that actively participate, and one of those ways is to vote.”
Story provided by Angie Holland