Quad-City high school students got a glimpse Saturday into the important, yet confusing, process of choosing a Democratic and Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election. 

Eighteen area students gathered at the Eldridge branch of the Scott County Library to participate in the newly launched Iowa Youth Caucus, a statewide initiative aimed at giving students a first-hand look at the caucus system in Iowa.

“I hope they (students) get a better understanding of how caucuses work, and I hope they get a better insight on where the candidates stand on the issues," North Scott High School senior Kyle Apple said. 

The Iowa Secretary of State's Office, along with the Iowa Democratic Party and Republican Party of Iowa, launched the statewide initiative last month in an effort to get more young people involved in the caucus process.

More than 1,600 middle- and high-school students in 22 counties statewide have held mock caucuses. The majority of counties held their events on Nov. 19.

On Feb. 1, caucus-goers will vote for candidates at all 1,774 precincts spread across the state’s 99 counties.

Since 1972, seven Democrats in 10 caucuses who won in Iowa have won their party's nomination, and six Republican winners, out of nine caucuses in Iowa, have gone on to win the GOP nomination.

Saturday’s mock caucus gave students an opportunity to learn about the presidential candidates, participate in both parties’ mock caucuses and cast their votes for the candidates of their choice.

Apple, 18, a registered Republican, was asked by the Secretary of State’s office to moderate Saturday’s event. A busload of students from a high school in Chicago also briefly attended the mock caucus Saturday to learn more about the process, Apple said. 

Illinois does not hold caucuses. 

In the mock Republican caucus, students voted in a straw poll by writing down the name of their preferred candidate. 

In the Democratic caucus, students were asked to move to a section of the room that represented the three candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley.

The students then tried to persuade the other students to switch to their preferred candidate. During the exercise, the students were divided between Sanders and O'Malley.

In the end, Sanders earned the most votes in the Democratic caucus, while Paul Rand came out on top in the GOP caucus.

Teresa Paar, 17, a North Scott senior and a Republican, said she has been trying to get more politically aware because she will be able to vote in the 2016 general election.

The Iowa caucus comes a month before she turns 18, Paar said.

“The amount of voters has been steadily decreasing, which isn’t helpful because America was built on what the people want,” Paar said. “If you’re not voting, it’s not going to make everyone happy, but you can’t be upset about a decision that was made about you if you were given the choice.”

Paar said she likes Republican candidate Marco Rubio because of his stance on gun control and his plan for tax cuts.

North Scott senior Lily Lindle, 17, who attended the session for her Advanced Placement Government class, took notes as Apple discussed the candidates.

“It’s interesting that all of these candidates are against Obamacare,” she said after learning more about the Republican candidates.

For Lindle, climate change is an important issue that she wanted to learn more about from the candidates.

“I think it’s important today because it affects all of us as a nation,” she said. “But I haven’t really heard anybody mention that.”

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