Guest Columnists

Iowa caucuses: Why your vote matters

Research candidates, find your caucus location and vote

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The eyes of the world will focus on Iowa on Monday, and I hope every resident of this great state takes advantage of the opportunity.

Our first-in-the-nation caucus status is something every Iowan should relish. We play a major role in deciding who will be, and who won’t be, the next president of the United States. It is an awesome responsibility and one that many Iowans take seriously. We all should feel that way.

Over the past 12 months, two dozen presidential hopefuls have crisscrossed this state to meet with you, discuss topics that are important to you and offer their vision for the future of this country. Now it is your turn to respond. I encourage every eligible Iowan to participate in the Iowa caucuses Monday.

The caucuses will take place in neighborhoods like yours across the state. Essentially, a caucus is a neighborhood meeting. It provides an opportunity to express support for the presidential candidate of your choice and to try to persuade your neighbor to also back that candidate. The caucuses also allow Iowans to discuss the issues that are important to them and suggest the political parties add those stances to their platforms. You also can try to become a delegate to the county convention or a county central committee member.

Unfortunately, participation in the Iowa caucuses is usually low. Even if turnout this year reaches 150,000 for each party, that still represents around one-fourth of the registered Republicans or Democrats in the state. We can do better.

Our first-in-the-nation status is constantly at risk. Every four years, we have to fight to maintain our place at the front of the line. Voting first not only gives us tremendous sway in the presidential nominating process, it also provides a boon to Iowa’s economy.

The caucuses allow us to showcase Iowa’s many great qualities. Media from all over the world visit Iowa to cover the presidential candidates, and in the process, inform the world about our great state. We are the agricultural backbone that feeds the world. We host the country’s best state fair. We maintain outstanding colleges and universities, and the nation’s most beautiful state Capitol. We also have incredibly resilient people and cities that bounce back from major disasters like the Flood of 2008.

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A recent Pew survey determined why some people choose not to vote. One of the top reasons given was people do not think their vote matters. I can assure you, your vote matters Monday night. It matters for the future of our state, our nation and our world.

Iowans, make sure your voice is heard Monday night. Let the world know what Iowans stand for and what kind of country we want to leave behind for our children and grandchildren.

Iowa’s youth made their voices heard this past week. More than 60,000 students in schools across the state voted in the Iowa Youth Straw Poll. I visited a fifth-grade class Monday that was conducting a mock caucus. These bright kids were having serious discussions about the issues. Their vote mattered to them. It should matter to you as well.

There are a few things I am asking all Iowans to do Monday. First, research the candidates. Find out what they stand for and pick the one who holds the same values and principles that you do. Second, find your caucus location. It’s easy.

Just visit our website, enter your address, and it will direct you where to go. Third, attend your precinct caucus Monday.

The caucuses are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. I suggest arriving by 6:30. If you are not registered to vote or need to update your voter registration, you can do that at the caucuses. Remember, you have to be a registered Republican to participate in a Republican caucus, and a registered Democrat to participate in the Democratic caucus. You are allowed to change your party affiliation at the caucus.

The next step is to have fun. The caucuses are a great experience and something every Iowan should do. Most of the meetings do not last longer than an hour. It will be a rewarding experience, and you will make an impact on the future of our country. Please participate in your Iowa caucuses Monday night.

• Paul Pate is Iowa’s Secretary of State. Comments: Paul.Pate@sos.iowa.gov

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