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Credit: Felicity Yick

Though Pennsylvania’s primaries are not until April 28, Iowans in Philadelphia will have the chance to participate in their home state's famous first-in-the-nation caucus. 

Penn will host an Iowa satellite caucus on Feb. 3 from 8 to 10 p.m. in Houston Hall. College junior Jessica Anderson, hailing from Titonka, Iowa, coordinated the event in anticipation of the upcoming 2020 presidential election. The satellite caucus will give students and residents of the Philadelphia area who are registered to vote in Iowa as Democrats a chance to advocate for their preferred candidate — as if they were in their home state. Non-Iowans are allowed to observe the caucus. 

As a Penn student, Anderson is unable to travel to participate in one of the Iowa caucuses held within the state itself, so she searched for a way to bring a caucus to Philadelphia. After considering the idea of virtual caucusing, Anderson discovered a replacement in the form of a satellite caucus while listening to Iowa Public Radio. 

“One of the critical parts of the caucus is that, not only do people group up and vote, but they also give speeches about why they think a given candidate is best,” Anderson said. 

As caucus coordinator, Anderson was responsible for preparing the satellite site as well as spreading the word among Philadelphia-area students. She reached out to Penn and nearby universities, including Temple University, Drexel University, and Villanova University, in an effort to include more students in the caucus. Penn is estimated to have around 40 to 50 Iowan undergraduates this year, though Anderson speculates that less than half will attend the satellite caucus.

Credit: Sophia Dai

The satellite caucus will take place in Houston Hall.

Because Anderson will participate in the caucus herself, she appointed another individual to chair the event. A member of the Iowa Democratic Committee will train the chair — College junior and former President of Penn Democrats Emma Carlson — before the event. 

The Houston Hall location is one of 99 satellite caucuses organized by the Iowa Democratic Party.

The caucus represents just one of the ways the Penn community is preparing for the upcoming election. Political science professor Matthew Levendusky said for every election year he’s been on campus, students have become more involved in and curious about political processes. 

According to Levendusky, Penn’s location is central to this political involvement. 

“Pennsylvania is a key swing state — especially after the 2016 election,” he said. “So politically interested students will have plenty of opportunities to be involved throughout 2020.”

College junior and President of Penn Dems Owen Voutsinas-Klose echoed Levendusky’s sentiments. 

“Sometimes, these caucuses come down to just a couple of votes. I think anyone registered to vote in Iowa that goes to Penn, if they don’t vote, is missing out on a very historic opportunity to be involved in choosing our next president.”

Despite fears of low turnout, Anderson remains optimistic about the event. 

“I’m just hoping that people come away with a better understanding of the political process and a greater appreciation for the work that people do to allow them to express themselves,” she said. “We forget how much of a blessing and a gift it is.” 

In order to participate, eligible students must register for the event by Jan. 17.

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