Students gear up for Kansas presidential caucuses

In the wake of “Super Tuesday” this week, when 11 states simultaneously held political caucuses to award delegates to Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls, the state of Kansas is holding its own caucus Saturday.

Registered Democrats and Republicans can make their case for their preferred candidates via each party’s unique caucus process at separate locations. One location is Wichita State’s CAC Theatre, where WSU College Democrats are helping to organize the caucus for the 29th Senate District.

WSU’s College Democrats President Paul Brink said he sees this as an exciting opportunity to expose students to the primary process.

“It’s a way for us to connect with the campus community and get more students involved,” Brink said. “I think it’s a very good way for students to have access to voting.”

Each party handles caucuses differently. Democrats have supporters of each candidate divide into groups at several locations spread across Kansas based on congressional districts. Speeches are made and a headcount is ultimately taken to determine which candidate won which precinct.

Republicans, on the other hand, have a single location for each county, with some holding multiple counties. Votes are taken through secret ballots.

Each party requires Kansas caucusgoers to be registered with the party of the respective caucus. Voters can register as Democrat up to and on the day of the caucus and still attend, while voters must have registered as Republican no later than Feb. 4 to participate in that caucus.

Brink said the Democratic caucus is a unique opportunity for Kansas Democrats to shape the general election — as Kansas has historically been entrenched as a red state. The only two Democrats to win electoral votes from Kansas in the past century were Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson.

“If you’re a Democrat and you care about the presidential election, this is one way you can affect that,” Brink said. “It is exciting to be able to participate in the process of choosing our next president, even though it’s within our party instead of versus another party.”

Carri New has attended WSU on-and-off since 1988, and she founded the “Sedgwick County for Bernie Sanders” Facebook page last year. For New, this election should be especially important to younger voters.

“This is their future that we’re working on,” New said. “This is their best chance to pick who they want to lead the country through some really important years they have coming up.”

New acknowledged the significance of having a caucus location at WSU, but cautioned against WSU students assuming they can vote there. If students are interested in that caucus, they should check which district they belong to and which location to attend on the Kansas Democratic Party’s website,, before Saturday.

“I’m happy that it’s there because it does bring awareness,” New said. “But on the other hand, I’m concerned that some people might show up to caucus at the location who aren’t actually eligible to caucus there.”

WSU College Republicans chair Paige Hungate said she feels passionately that young voters should register, be aware and be involved in the primary process.

“Elections are really impactful not only to the working class, but to college students,” Hungate said. “Policies that they put in place will impact us, and I think college students need to be aware that who’s getting elected now is going to affect our future and our children’s futures.”

Hungate also said the Kansas Republican Caucus is especially important, as the party’s field of candidates is ideologically diverse and the eventual nominee will, in all likelihood, win Kansas in November.

“We have a lot of different candidates with a lot of different views on things,” Hungate said. “I think it’s important to understand that it’s not just the party running, that they’re individual people with individual platforms.”

Brink encouraged young voters to get out and caucus this weekend so their voices can be heard by lawmakers.

“Any chance someone has to be engaged in the political process is an opportunity to have your voice heard,” Brink said. “Even if it seems small or seems insignificant, young people participating in the primary process allows decision-makers to recognize that we are an important force within the electorate and that we have issues that need represented.”