The Iowa caucus

By Jillian Armstrong

Most people have heard about the Iowa caucus, and even it’s results this year. Most people, however, don’t know why the caucuses are so important and the influence it has.

The Iowa caucuses are biennial electoral events for members of the Democratic and Republican parties in the state of Iowa. The Iowa caucus is regarded as an important indicator of a candidate’s likely success and it usually is the first among the nomination contests. 

You may be wondering why the Iowa caucuses are important and why they are in Iowa in the first place. Iowa is tiny, atypical to the rest of the United States, and provides about only 1% of the nation’s delegates. However, this doesn’t stop the state from being the first indicator of whether a presidential candidate’s support is holding up. The timing of the Iowa caucus provides candidates time to adjust their messages, which gives the state a large amount of power in elections. The Iowa caucuses give the media a tangible measure of candidates’ relative strength.

The Iowa caucuses’ importance can be seen in past electoral races. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, the Iowa caucuses in 2000 played an important role in the ascendance of the Democratic nominee, Al Gore. It did the same thing for the election’s ultimate winner, George W. Bush. In 2008, former President Barack Obama took lead in the Iowa caucuses. This forged a path for his nomination and victory over his rivals. 

The Iowa caucuses are run differently from other primary elections. In primary elections, in other states, registered voters go to polling places to cast ballots. In Iowa, people gather at local caucus meetings to discuss and vote on the candidates.

The caucuses were run differently this year, a decision that may have backfired. Instead of local meetings, it was decided that an app would be used to make the experience “easier.” The apps showed irregularities and votes began to have to be counted manually. This led to a significant delay in determining the results. 

According to CNN, the eventual results of the Iowa caucuses showed Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders as front runners in the Presidential race, both carrying about 21% of the votes. Elizabeth Warren was not far behind in the race with about 18% of the votes. So, as the Presidential race continues, these three candidates should be paid close attention!

Plastic bag bans: Are they really worth it?

Gavin Parsons, Marine Photobank: Image taken from: https://ocean.si.edu/conservation/pollution/plastic-bag-bans-work

There is no question that pollution and climate change are issues that are taking our world by storm. As new laws are put in place to add taxes to plastic bags or to ban them completely, it begs the question, are bans really going to work?

Everyday, people use disposable plastic products. Straws, cups, forks, bottles and, one of the most impactful, plastic bags. Plastic bags are easy to use, disposable, and many people use them for these reasons. However, are the benefits of them really worth the costs?

There is a shockingly large amount of plastic that is polluting our oceans. It endangers animals and leads to the emission of more greenhouse gases. According to ABC News, plastic bags clog storm drains and entangle and kill an estimated 100,000 marine animals annually.

The average plastic bag is used for about 12 minutes but they can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. People use about 500 billion single-use bags per year. This averages out to 150 bags per person.

The concept of reducing plastic usage seems easy, but it is harder than it seems. People have been building the habit to use these disposable bags for years and it’s a habit that is hard to break. 

According to ABC News, only three states in the U.S. have passed laws that ban single-use plastics like plastic bags. California, Hawaii, and New York are those three states. Other states like Delaware, Maine, and Rhode Island have mandatory recycling/reuse programs but plastic bags are not banned or taxed.

Ten states have placed bans on banning plastic bags. These states include Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. These bans restrict the ability to control and ban plastic-bag usage. The bans in these ten states ban laws similar to the ones in California and Rhode Island from being enforced.

This encourages us to ask the question, are plastic bag bans really worth it?

According to “Plastic Bag Bans Work” from the Smithsonian, in 2002, Ireland made a simple change by adding a 15 cent tax on plastic bags in stores. They hoped that the tax would help people notice their habits and convince them to bring reusable bags. After the tax was put in place, plastic bag use went down 90 percent. Many shoppers ended up agreeing with the tax and were able to see the benefits.

Plastic bag bans work (at least in tax form)! They have made a noticeable difference in Ireland and have the chance to make an impact all over the world. Enforcing bans across the United States could show an amazing change; especially for marine life!