The 2020 election took its first official steps last week with the Iowa caucuses, which generally help set the tone for the rest of the campaign season and solidify leading candidates.
But it's a process that should be rethought in order to be more inclusive and more representative of U.S. voters.
Let's look at the inclusivity piece first by understanding how the caucuses work.
Voters typically gather in local hotspots such as school gymnasiums, community centers and union halls and elect a caucus chair to direct the proceedings, according to The Associated Press. Representatives of the campaigns have an opportunity to stand up and give a last-minute pitch for their candidates, and then the caucuses begin.
Attendees gather in designated areas for their favored candidates, and the process continues with several rounds at each precinct until a candidate is locked in. Supporters of candidates who don't meet the threshold to continue to the next round can support a viable candidate, join with supporters of another nonviable candidate to get that candidate to viability or entice supporters of other nonviable candidates over to theirs to get them over the threshold.
This process seems problematic and undemocratic for many reasons. It frankly sounds exhausting and time-consuming, and we doubt many voters have the kind of spare time to devote to the multiple rounds of debate in order to land on a single candidate.
And where is the anonymous one-vote-per-person concept? It seems like this process would be open to shaming and peer pressure at best and manipulation at worst for those in attendance who don't support the leading candidate.
The caucuses also aren't representative of — in this case — the Democratic Party, which is becoming increasingly diverse across the U.S. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Iowa is nearly 91% white, with 7.8% of residents living with a disability and 8% living in a household in which a language other than English is spoken.
The nation, meanwhile, is 76.5% white, with 8.6% of residents living with a disability and 21.5% living in a household in which a language other than English is spoken.
To have Iowa set the stage for the remainder of the campaign season, when its voters don't completely represent American voters in general, is hugely problematic. Members of minority and underrepresented populations should have just as much of a say in selecting a presidential candidate.
One solution would be to have the first four states of the election season — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — host their contests on the same day. Each state represents a different geographic area of the U.S. and offers more diversity in terms of demographics of voters.
It's likely such a system would offer a fairer, more representational picture when choosing the next presidential candidate.