Ames High students participate in county conventions

For most students at Ames High, the presidential race is something to observe or ignore. The caucuses have come and gone; what more involvement could it take? For others, the caucuses were just the beginning. Though the caucuses may seem to be the be-all and end-all of Iowa’s involvement, they’re really just one of many steps. After the caucuses, Iowa holds county conventions, district conventions, and finally a state convention to narrow down the number of delegates. Our caucuses may be held in early January, but our final delegates aren’t chosen until mid-June! Several Ames High students volunteered to be delegates or alternates at the next stage of the presidential race in Iowa: the county conventions. Most recent were the Democratic county conventions, held on March 15 – the first Saturday of Spring break. Those brave few volunteered to sacrifice their time and head out to Ames Middle School to help support the cause of their candidates. Though the convention was long, our student delegates were well up to the challenge. “The convention is exciting,” said Caitlin Harrington, Ames High graduate of ’07. “There are lots of people here, with so much energy.” Unlike caucusgoers, who can be any member of the public, those who volunteered to be county convention delegates are the most active and dedicated party members. Even for those chosen as alternates at the caucus, there was still a good chance of becoming a full delegate at the convention. “There were a lot of speeches, but the convention was really interesting,” said senior Chris Elsenbast, who attended the convention as a delegate for Barack Obama. “We were both originally just alternates, but we got to replace people who didn’t come.” Though it was fairly easy for students to get seats at the convention as delegates or alternates, moving on to the next stage, the district convention, proved more challenging. “We’re both trying to become district delegates, but there are a lot of people running here who are active in the party,” said Elsenbast. Luckily, Ames High students have an advantage. “People are always glad to see youth support,” said Harrington, “and they like to see youth activism. So we have a pretty good chance.” Democracy isn’t just for seniors and graduates. Sophomore Zoe Russell attended the convention as a Youth Delegate. Though she didn’t get to vote for candidates like the other delegates, she did get special duties at the convention. “The Youth Delegates tally votes, count money, and do behind-the scenes stuff like that,” said Russell. “But we also get to sit at the Platform Committee – that was really interesting.” The Platform Committee was a group of less than a dozen prominent people in the Story County Democratic party. They attend the county convention to write up the official goals and beliefs of the Story County Democrats, separate from the delegates themselves. “At the meeting they talked about things from Darfur to immigration,” said Russell. “It was really cool to be there.” Unlike the delegates running for their positions, the Youth Delegates had an easier time of getting into the convention. “I was a volunteer at the caucuses,” said Russell, “and they gave us a sign-up sheet after the caucus was over. That’s all I needed to do.” Now the convention is over, and delegates are waiting for the district conventions coming up in three weeks. As the Iowa presidential campaign continues, the process may seem farther and farther away from the average person, but Ames High students can still find a way to take part.