Primaries, caucuses, candidates, oh my!

2020 election season in full swing

In 2017, the Oxford Dictionary decided “youthquake” was their word of the year.  Essentially, this reflects the recent explosion of young activism and political involvement in the past 5 years.  

Yet, over the years, our community has experienced an upsurge in voter apathy, with incoming voters claiming that due to their residence and state’s tradition, their vote in New York “does not matter.”  This has then resulted in discouragement among teens from being politically active and informed. According to a survey conducted by The Schreiber Times,  37% of Schreiber students think that their votes do not make a difference in elections.

What many people fail to realize is that being knowledgeable, whether it be about individual candidates or the election process as a whole, is a form of political participation.  In fact, it is the most accessible way, as it has no age limit and no entry fee.  

So, if you are among the lucky group of individuals who turn 18 before April, take the time to research candidates, and the election process as a whole.  If you do not belong to this group, it is imperative to realize that you soon will be, and November is right around the corner.  

Before November, however, there are primaries and caucuses to determine the general election candidates.  On Feb. 3rd the first caucus was held in Iowa. On Feb. 11, the New Hampshire primary took place. Then, there will be Super Tuesday, and the Spring primaries, and the New York primary April 28th.  But what are these elections? And what can young voters do in the meantime?  

The primary is like a normal election; registered Democrats and Republicans vote for the candidate that they believe should be the presidential candidate for their political party.  The process is not described in the Constitution, but has been implemented by individual political parties. The primaries are run by local governments, and help determine what candidates get a certain percentage of that state’s delegates.  The votes that are cast are completely private, and only the voter knows who they voted for.  

A caucus is an alternative to the traditional primary.  Instead of registered Democrats and Republicans voting for who they want to be their nominee, they attend a meeting instead.  Each precinct has a distinct meeting spot, usually a school or church, where registered voters go to select their vote for a nominee. 

Each party runs their caucuses differently. In the Democratic caucuses, registered voters who are aligned with the Democratic Party show up to their caucuses set in each precinct.  They are able to move around the caucus locations and gather in groups that align with a different candidate. A candidate must get at least 15 percent of all voters to achieve viability.  If this mark isn’t met, those supporters must go join another viable or non viable group. After every person is set with their group, the number of delegates awarded is then determined by a specific formula and released to the public.  If one candidate gets 30 percent during the caucuses, that means he won 30 percent of the 2,000 state delegates.  

The Republican method is much simpler.  There is no free movement of voters, but instead each voter casts a secret ballot to select their candidate.  This process of selecting nominees is very rare within the US, occurring in only three states and three territories.  

Iowa is the first caucus, followed by Nevada, then the territory of American Samoa which has 11 delegates. North Dakota is next on March 10 and then Wyoming on April 4, and Guam and the Virgin Islands round up the caucuses on May 2 and June 6 respectively.  

A Democratic National Convention is always held shortly before a presidential election.  The number of delegates each state receives at the convention is determined by looking at the number of voters the democratic candidate has received in the last three presidential elections and the number of electoral votes each state is going to have in the presidential election.  The delegates are then dispersed based on the results of the primaries and the caucuses. The winner of the Democratic National Convention moves on to the general election to face the Republican candidate for the presidency. For example, in 2016, Hillary Clinton received 59.67% of the delegates while Berneie Sanders received 39.16% of the delegates.  Because of this, Clinton faced Donal Trump in the general election. The candidates for this year’s democratic nominee are Michael Bennet, Joseph Biden Jr., Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang.

Currently, there is a significant amount of uncertainty regarding the Democratic Primary.  The Iowa Caucuses took place on Tuesday, Feb. 3. After much anticipation, the app that the Iowa Democrats were using to keep track of the votes encountered a number of problems, delaying the results of the primary.  

Generally, since Iowa caucuses are the first competition held, they give the winner a boost in the competition, revealing the trajectory of the race.  So when there was confusion surrounding the winner of the caucuses, analysts were unsure about how this mishap would change the race.  

After a few days, the results were released.  Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg won, receiving 13 state delegates and Senator Bernie Sanders was a close second, receiving 12 state delegates.  However, Sanders won the popular vote. This situation is possible because Buttigieg won in more rural areas, and the caucus system favors rural areas over urban areas.  As a result, both Buttigieg and Sanders are claiming victory.

Many found it surprising that former Vice-President Joe Biden had a weak showing in Iowa.  In the end, he only received 6 state delegates. Biden has been consistently leading in the national polls for the past year, which makes people wonder if this is the beginning of his downfall.  

Following the Iowa Caucuses, Sanders has clearly outperformed his progressive rival Senator Elizabeth Warren.  What is unclear is who the moderate choice will be for the Democrats. Biden seems to be losing support as Senator Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete Buttigieg are rising in the polls.

The main difference between the ideas of progressives and moderates is their positions on electability in the general election. For the most part, the moderate side of the democratic party seems to prioritize nominating a candidate who can defeat Donald Trump this November.  

According to a survey conducted by The Schreiber Times, 57% of Schreiber students prioritize candidates that have similar views to them.  Initially, it appeared that Joe Biden had the best case for electability, given his moderate stances and name recognition throughout the country. However, his performance in Iowa and recent trends in polls have shown that Biden’s support is rather superficial. Today, it seems that the majority of moderates within the party are getting behind Buttigieg, whose excellent debate skills and military experience could come in handy when campaigning against Trump. 

The more progressive wing of the party is slowly rallying behind Sanders, although his opponents claim that his socialist ideals could lead to a landslide loss in November. On the other hand, some claim that these policies, such as Medicare for all and the eradication of college debt, could pull many votes from the struggling blue collar states that the Dems are focused on like Pennsylvania and Michigan. Lately, several nationwide polls have supported this assertion. The most recent poll from research firm Morning Consult gives Sanders a four point lead over Trump. That same poll had Buttigieg beating Trump by just a singular point. Members of the Democratic establishment, such as Hilary Clinton, may oppose Sanders’ far-left policies, but it is undeniable that the numbers show support for these policies across the country.

The race to the 2020 presidential election and the primary elections leading up to it are a prevalent conversation at Schreiber.  Both students and teachers are apt to have open and honest conversations from the classroom to the cafeteria. These conversations tend to be pretty calm, constructive, and educational as students are interested in learning more about the candidates and the presidential election process.  However, there are occasional heated debates when students express their conflicting personal stances on specific policies, parties, or candidates.  

Also, when students show support for a specific candidate through their clothing, stickers, or other merchandise, it tends to provoke a conversation as well.  Moreover, because many upperclassmen are approaching the voting age, they tend to be more engaged and involved in politics both in and out of school.  

As students become more informed about the candidates and their policies, these conversations arise more often. Therefore, political discourse is more noticeable in older grades because they want to learn more in order to make an informed voter. Moreover, older students learn more about the United States’ government processes in school as well. Whether a student takes AP Government and Politics or Senior Options Government, they are required to learn about our governmental system in some fashion. In fact, in AP Government and Politics, teachers frequently begin the class with a recap of a recent event or news release the night before. They also assign their students to watch events, such as the State of the Union or the Democratic Debate, along with worksheets to further the students’ understanding about the topics discussed. These courses encourage students to follow along with the current election process as it is relevant to their social studies class and their life as a future or current voter. Not only are they being exposed to additional information sometimes catered to their ideological standpoint, but they are becoming educated on all aspects of a specific topic, including the viewpoint of the opposing party. Taking these classes also creates a hub for informed discussions regarding the political climate in the country. 

However, despite the prevalence of election discussion in Schreiber, there are many cases when the opinionated topic is unwanted. For example, in some classes teachers feel uncomfortable regulating in-class debates, in fear of offending students or introducing their own feelings, which they are supposed to keep disclosed. Since Port Washington has a mix of liberal and conservative residents, Schreiber students represent this ideological diversity, and those of the voting age-or those generally interested in politics- often express their values on campus; during the 2016 election, students came in wearing “MAGA” hats or Hilary Clinton shirts. Now, some students have Bernie stickers on their water bottles, or, again, “MAGA” merchandise. Because of these physical presentations of support, political discussions are sometimes easily instigated, but most other times, they are stopped in order to prevent students from engaging in condescending arguments. While Schreiber is taking a much stronger approach in informing its students this election season, it is important to recognize the ability to civilly disagree and understand both sides of this election. 

Regardless of which political party you affiliate with or which candidate you support, voting is the best way for Americans to exercise their rights and have a say in who rules our country. The New York primary elections will be held on April 28, so if you are eligible be sure to do so before April 3. To register, visit or the New York DMV website, or visit your local DMV in person. There are several polling places around town, one of which will be assigned to you after registration. The deadline for the November 3 general election is October 9. 

According to a poll conducted by The Schreiber Times, around 65% of Schreiber seniors will be eligible to vote in the 2020 primary elections. While the majority of high school students will not be 18 before the elections, it is still crucial to stay informed and in the know regarding the potential candidates and their policies. Even if you are unable to vote in 2020, you will eventually be eligible and it is important to have a strong political background before heading to the polls. Be sure to read news from several reliable sources to help develop an informed opinion. Regardless of your political leaning or level of involvement, the 2020 election process is just beginning and is sure to be a turbulent race.