Pity those poor Iowans on Caucus Night.
If they didn’t reach their appointed caucus precinct location by 7 p.m. on the dot, they lost out on their opportunity to make their voices heard on which presidential candidate they support.
Not much room for error there. Not much allowance for emergencies or sickness or scheduling problems or vacations, either.
That’s the way the caucus system works – it’s first in the nation, but it offers minimal options when it comes to voter convenience.
Contrast that with Iowa’s neighbor to the east: Illinois.
Thursday was the first day of early voting in Will County for the Illinois primary. Grundy County did not have early voting and vote-by-mail ballots by Feb. 4 due to several contest objections that had not been decided yet. Will County is going ahead with printed ballots as is; any vote in favor of a candidate who is later kicked off the ballot will be null and void.
On Illinois’ Democratic ballot, Hillary Clinton (the Iowa winner), Bernie Sanders (who ran a close second), and Martin O’Malley (who has since dropped out of the race), are joined by Willie Wilson, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente and Larry (Lawrence) Cohen.
On Illinois’ Republican ballot, Ted Cruz (the Iowa winner), Donald Trump (No. 2 in Iowa) and Marco Rubio (No. 3 in Iowa) are joined by Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul (who dropped out Wednesday), Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee (who has also dropped out), Rick Santorum (who also dropped out Wednesday), John Kasich and Ben Carson.
Indeed, Illinois voters have plenty of options between now and March 15, the actual date of the primary, to make their opinions known on the presidential candidates, as well as other races.
Along with exercising the early voting option, registered voters may apply for a ballot by mail and vote absentee; no reason is required.
If they haven’t registered to vote by the traditional registration deadline of Feb. 16, people may do so afterward through grace period registration, which must be done in person at the county clerk’s office. However, they must cast their ballot immediately afterward.
Many county clerks offer expanded hours for early voting and voter registration on the Saturday before the primary; check with your county clerk for details. And, of course, people can vote the “old school” way by actually showing up and casting ballots at their local precincts between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Election Day, March 15.
In the wake of Monday’s Iowa caucuses, the field of candidates has begun to narrow, as inevitably happens in presidential campaigns.
But it’s quite possible that real contests in both parties will still exist by the time we reach our “Ides of March” primary.
As Illinoisans prepare to weigh in on who should be on the November presidential ballot, we encourage them to take full advantage of all the options for making their voices heard.
If Illinois can’t beat Iowa in having the first presidential contest, at least our state shows its superiority in voter convenience.