Letter to the editor – John Thompson

You cannot phone in a caucus.

Last week the Iowa GOP was told it must provide absentee voting for active duty military stationed outside of Iowa.

I am sure I am the only Republican Party of Iowa board member who has never caucused. Two decades ago I joined the Army at the age of 17; I returned to Iowa just before our last state convention.  I can appreciate the effort to enfranchise our troops but participating in caucus is more than a vote.

Iowa has an important role in selecting the finalists for president. We get to look the candidates in the eye. We ask them tough questions. We aren’t star struck and we don’t just vote for the person with the best commercials. The Iowans that participate in the caucus are very informed, truly committed and show up for a couple hours in a cold winter evening. Our process enables us to even the playing field for the candidates. Without the caucus the path to the GOP nomination would only be about money raised by special interests for television and electioneering.

The Iowa Democrats first made an effort to include military. I cannot fathom why anybody in the service would vote for the liberal party. But I assume this change is another way the DNC could tip the scale in Hillary Clinton’s favor. People join the military to fight communists, not to vote for them.

The Democrats left the GOP in an awkward position. The party of the veterans and troops looked like the one that wasn’t giving them the chance to vote. 

I appreciate the sentiment but our process needs to be protected from pressure that turns it into a money race. Service members outside of the state cannot stop in to their local Pizza Ranch to attend a town hall. They aren’t subject to the horserace and grassroots efforts of the candidates that eventually result in surges of support.  Their perspective is either heavily determined by national polls or what they see on the Armed Forces Network.  Money matters most.

Under the Servicemember Civil Relief Act our troops can become residents of a state in which they do not reside by showing an intent to become a resident. Many troops make this change to avoid paying state taxes or to obtain preferential treatment to get into a state college.

One way to show intent is to register to vote through the Federal Voting Assistance Program. This federal law could enable committees to organize efforts to encourage servicemembers from other states to change their residency and vote in the first in the nation caucus.

This change also puts our state party on a slippery slope to enable more populations to phone in their vote.

Snowbirds complain they don’t get to participate. Our process forces candidates to mobilize their true believers to get out on a cold February evening. Leadership and character are more important than money. If we cannot protect our method of informed and committed activists winnowing the field of candidates we may as well switch to a primary.

–John Thompson of Jefferson


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