MIT students to vote at Iowa Democratic satellite caucus

Fifty-six Iowans are pre-registered to vote in Cambridge Feb. 3

Several MIT students will vote at the Iowa Democratic Party satellite caucus at the Democracy Center in Harvard Square Feb. 3. The caucus will begin at 8 p.m.

The New York Times reported that over 1,700 Iowans have pre-registered to participate in a satellite caucus. According to the Iowa Democratic Party’s website, there will be 87 satellite caucuses, consisting of 60 in Iowa, 24 elsewhere in the U.S., and 3 in other countries. 

Iowa is the first state in the nation to hold its Democratic caucus in the 2020 presidential election cycle. Caucuses differ from primary elections because participants publicly discuss their support for candidates before the vote is counted.

The Iowa Democratic Party’s website says that the satellite caucuses would make voting “more accessible for Iowans who have traditionally been unable to attend their in-person precinct caucus.”

WGBH reported that 56 Iowans have pre-registered to vote in Cambridge, the only satellite caucus location in Massachusetts. Participants in out-of-state satellite caucuses were required to pre-register by Jan. 17.

According to the Registrar, 16 undergraduates and 26 graduate MIT students are from Iowa.

Olivia Schirm ’23 wrote in an email to The Tech that she plans to participate in the caucus to “get [her] voice heard early” in the election cycle. “The satellite caucus has affected me by bringing together a few of us from Iowa and giving me the opportunity to participate in the things I grew up with,” Schirm wrote.

Casey McClenathan ’21 wrote in an email to The Tech that she is “excited” to vote in the satellite caucus. McClenathan wrote that she chose not to register in Massachusetts because she has “a sort of stubborn Iowan pride” and doesn’t “think of [herself] as someone who lives in Massachusetts.”

“I think people should go to the satellite caucuses even if they don't have a super strong feeling about a specific candidate, and I would go even if I weren't a strong Bernie supporter,” McClenathan wrote.

Allen Wang G wrote in an email to The Tech that although he is undecided about who to vote for, he is glad that he can participate in the caucus remotely because “voting is an important civic duty.”

“Iowans have a different relationship with the political process than most Americans. Part of it is due to the large amount of time candidates spend there,” Matt Johnson G wrote in an email to The Tech. Iowa caucuses have traditionally been an opportunity to “discuss and debate issues and candidates with your neighbors,” Johnson wrote. 

Johnson wrote that while the satellite caucuses will be “a different experience,” their “ability to extend the caucus experience to more Iowans is … valuable for our democracy.”

Several MIT students from Iowa, including Johnson, wrote in emails to The Tech that they were unaware of the satellite caucus or did not pre-register. Additionally, some students from Iowa are ineligible to caucus because they are registered as Massachusetts voters. 

Editor’s Note: Olivia Schirm is a production staff member for The Tech.