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Watching a Caucus at Work
By Taylor Warden, 10, and Ryan Nuckolls, 11
Scholastic Student Reporters

Taylor Warden and Ryan Nuckolls interview the precinct caucus chairwoman at the end of a caucus in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 19. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

Click the pictures to read more about Ryan Nuckolls and Taylor Warden.

Monday, January 19—Wright Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa, held the 88th precinct's caucus, and according to the caucus chairwoman, Joyce Staci, it was the largest turnout she's seen in over 20 years. A show of hands at the beginning of the night indicated that for many of these attendees, this was their first time caucusing for any election.

The caucus began at 6:30 p.m. with the reading of the caucus rules and procedures, and then turned to the introduction and voting on various resolutions. Several resolutions were passed, including those that dealt with Medicare, health care, a prescription plan for all Americans, veteran benefits, and funding for education.

At exactly 7 p.m., the attendees got down to the real business, splitting up according to the candidate they were supporting. Of the 67 people there, the majority lent their support to Senator John Edwards, who secured two of the four delegates available from this precinct. Senator John Kerry and Representative Dick Gephardt secured the remaining two delegate positions.

Ramona and Raymond Pebbles were two of Edwards' supporters. "He has had a positive attitude the entire time I've heard about him," Ramona said. "And he seems to be supporting the things that are important to me. I think that we are looking at education as one of the important things because young people are going to be our future, and I think that's what Edwards is concerned about."

As for former Governor Howard Dean, there were not enough supporters in attendance to keep him viable. A candidate has to have support from at least 15 percent of the caucus attendees to be viable. His supporters had the option to support another candidate or go home.

When Danny and Claudia Law, two Dean supporters, were unable to convince more people to stand for Dean, they decided to support John Edwards instead.

"We have talked in the past and Edwards was our second choice, Danny said. "He stands a better chance of defeating Bush; however we still hope that Dean gets the nomination."

While caucuses can often be rowdy events, but attendees at the 88th precinct were calm and agreeable. People had the opportunity to share their opinions and presented their arguments for why they supported one candidate over another. At the end of the night, all 67 attendees were united by one Gephardt supporter who cheered, "Come November, we're all one team!"