Meet The Iowans Who Couldn’t Vote In The Caucus Because They Were Working

CREDIT: Emily Atkin

Patricia Diaz stands at her job at Dillards in Davenport, Iowa, where she'll be instead of voting tonight.

DAVENPORT, IOWA — Davenport resident Patricia Diaz wanted badly to participate in the Iowa caucuses, the nation’s first presidential primary voting of 2016. But she has a family of six that she has to support. She has two jobs — a part-time position as a sales associate at the department store Dillards, and a full-time job doing administrative work.

So instead of making her way to caucus on Monday at 7 p.m., she’ll be at Dillards, working until 9 p.m. She told ThinkProgress that she didn’t even try to ask for time off — it just wasn’t in the cards for her.

“I gotta make money,” she said. But she really did want to caucus, she said. “I’ve never done it, but this seems like an important year to start.”

Diaz is just one of many who won’t be able to vote on Monday because of Iowa’s complicated, controversial voting process. In a nutshell, the way it works is that anyone who wants to participate must present themselves at a specific location at 7 p.m. — if they’re late, they can’t get in. Then, they spend hours debating which candidate to choose, before making their final decision.

As many have pointed out, this time-specific, time-consuming process precludes thousands of working people across the state from being able to cast votes. Many argue that if Iowa had a regular voting process where polls were open all day, and absentee ballots could be cast, this wouldn’t be a problem.

But Iowa doesn’t have a regular process, so many across the state on Monday night were at work instead of their voting precinct.

Maddie Johnson, 20, an assistant manager at Yankee Candle in Davenport, Iowa, can't caucus tonight because she's working

Maddie Johnson, 20, an assistant manager at Yankee Candle in Davenport, Iowa, can’t caucus tonight because she’s working

CREDIT: Emily Atkin

One of those Iowans is Arsenio Maid, 23, a sales representative at iWireless. Maid said he would have wanted to participate in the caucuses to support Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), but he works 40 hours a week, and usually nights. When ThinkProgress asked whether he could have asked to take off work for the night, Maid laughed.

“It’s not an option to miss work,” he said.

Madi Johnson, 20, an assistant manager at Yankee Candle, said the fact that she was missing the Iowa caucuses “doesn’t really bother me.” But she “probably” would have gone out to caucus with her parents if she wasn’t working, she said.

“It was between Bernie and Hillary,” she said. “I’ll vote in the general election, though.”

Like Johnson, many workers ThinkProgress spoke to on Monday evening said they weren’t necessarily dying to go caucus, but the fact that they were working just took the option off the table. Kritesh Lamsal, a sandwich-maker at Subway, said he was “a little disappointed” that he couldn’t go caucus, but it wouldn’t really matter for him either way.

“I don’t like anyone running,” he said.

Diaz’s co-worker Rachel Uhle was a little more frustrated, however. If things weren’t so crazy at work right now, she said, she would have gone out to caucus for either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. She had never caucused before, she said, but this year seemed particularly important.”There’s a lot of people I definitely don’t want to get the nomination,” Uhle said.

“Trump!” Diaz yelled from across the sales floor.

“That’s certainly one of them,” Uhle replied.