The Iowa Caucus is not only famous for its importance as a predictor of candidate success, but also as an odd spectacle of American political tradition. This year’s caucus highlighted the importance of the coin toss—a tradition used to break ties in precincts that award an odd number of delegates, according to NPR.
Candidates Hillary Clinton and United States Sen. Bernie Sanders were separated by only 0.3 percent after many precincts performed coin tosses to award delegates. This system is a bit confusing, which is probably why the results of the caucus were met with such backlash.
It seems that criticism of the coin toss system took the form of accusing Clinton of cheating or fraud. CNN reported that coin tosses were used back in 2008 and is a Democratic Party tradition, yet the practice seemed unheard of by many on social media who were suspicious of the Clinton campaign. It is remarkable that Clinton and Sanders were only decimals apart from winning, but the coin toss was not a sly move by the organizers to give Clinton an unfair advantage as words spread across the Internet were implying.
Ignorance of the political and electoral process is common and not exactly something to be ashamed about. A coin toss seems like too crude or lazy a policy for something as important as a presidential election and not something the average American may realize is actually legal and practiced. Primaries are relatively straightforward—people can just vote for the candidate of their choice in their aligned party in a closed primary or both parties in an open primary.
The coin toss isn’t even the oddest part of a caucus. For the Democratic candidate, voters must stand on opposite sides of a room in support of particular candidates, get others to join their side and eliminate low-count candidates until the viable winners are revealed.
The simple voting style of primaries seems like an easier and more organized option. When examining the caucus system, it seems it is only still in practice for the mere excitement and spectacle rather than actual efficiency. It may be time to retire the traditions and move toward a political system that is easy to understand and easy to keep clean and accurate.