PARIS – This was a caucus like Iowans had never seen before: Voters from Egypt, Italy, Amsterdam and beyond descended on a Paris town hall Monday to choose their Democratic candidate for the 2020 election.
Some are serving at U.S military bases, some are studying in foreign capitals, and some had never met another Iowan abroad until Monday night. Some used to vote Republican.
And they all loved being able to caucus outside Iowa for the first time, huddled in a municipal meeting room up the street from the Louvre Museum.
Only 17 voters took part in the Paris caucus, so the result says little about the political direction of a state where some 200,000 people are expected to caucus overall Monday.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s corner drew the biggest crowd, putting her on top with eight votes, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg made it into the first round but didn’t make the decisive final “alignment.” No one voted for former Vice President Joe Biden.
The voters erupted in frequent laughter, exchanged social media handles and begged for each others' votes. They celebrated Midwest values and European public health care systems - and debated passionately about how best to beat Donald Trump in November.
They're all part of a new experiment aimed at making Iowa's unusual voting process more inclusive, by allowing caucuses outside the state. Paris was one of just three satellite caucus locations outside the U.S., along with Glasgow, Scotland and Tbilisi, Georgia.
“This is fun, this is democracy at its best, right here — having honest conversations about the direction not only of the Democratic Party but also of the United States,” said Austin Allaire, a graduate student from Huxley.
Allaire took the under-Channel train from London to Paris to caucus for Buttigieg, and said the caucus felt “a lot more relational” than the last one he attended in 2016.
Jessica and Aaron Beckman of Waterloo, Iowa, flew across the Mediterranean from their posting in Cairo to support Sanders in Paris. “Because we’re in the military, this is the first time we’re actually able to caucus,” Jessica Beckman said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Their votes will be added to the complex formula for divvying delegates among the Democratic candidates seeking their party's nomination.
The Paris caucus wrapped up with a Facetime call to Iowa Democratic Party headquarters to report the results, and hearty applause for the 20-year-old student who organized it all - and voted herself for the very first time.