How to Caucus: The Guide to Political Iowa

For those unfamiliar with the ways of political Iowa.

caucus /ˈkôkəs/ noun 1. a meeting of the members of a legislative body who are members of a particular political party, to select candidates or decide policy. 2. a group of people with shared concerns within a political party or larger organization. verb NORTH AMERICA 1. hold or form a caucus. 

Iowa prides itself on being first-in-the-nation each year, leading the country in its non-primary system and helping weed out the strong candidates from the weak ones.

Even if Iowa is not a deciding state, the first battleground state is able to find the candidates who are willing to put forth the effort and those who are not up for the challenge. In an event last evening with Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock where she endorsed Hillary Clinton for 2016 said that votes in Iowa can count the most and the three other battleground states.

Iowans find fulfillment in casting their votes. Whether it is a millennial voter, Generation X, Baby Boomer or a Silent Generation individual, there are plenty people who find their way to their respective precinct to caucus.

For the Republicans:

To participate in a Republican caucus, an Iowan must be a registered Republican voter or eligible voters, who are at least 17 1/2 years of age at caucus time and 18 years of age at general election time, are eligible to head out to the appropriate caucus to register.

Upon arrival, and/or completed registration, the Republicans will elect a chairperson, whether it be a man or a woman and a secretary to front the evening’s evens. According to a Des Moines Register graphic, the caucus generally takes about an hour and delegates will be chosen for the county convention (should that be capitalized?.

The gathering then will be able to engage in discussion in favor or against candidates before the voting process begins  and the party platform can be discussed if deemed necessary. (Is that when the use of the straw poll is able to be discussed?)

Then, participants are able to begin casting their votes whether it be by a hand count or  paper ballot but Republicans are able to cast a secret ballot during the voting process, which is unlike the the Democratic process. According to the Des Moines Register, the manner in which constituents are able to vote is based upon the number in attendance at the evening’s caucus.

From there, the votes are appropriately tallied and then sent off to be reported by the media. After the tallies are completed, the totals are then reported to the media. But, according to Mike Mahaffey, former Iowa Senatorial candidate and Republican party chair, said in a seminar for University of Oklahoma students that the tabulations are completed once every precinct has been heard from, since in the case of 2012 when Massachusetts governor and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was named the winner of Iowa, but the votes did not demonstrate every voting precinct. So, the winner was Rick Santorum, but the true winner was not announced until about three weeks after the closing of the Iowa caucus. Mahaffey said the result will be announced once each precinct has been accounted for in order to ensure the accuracy of the announced winner.

While it is unlikely a recount of that proportion will happen again this election cycle, it is possible to see the results roll in around 11 p.m. on caucus night.

For the Democrats:

To vote in a Democratic caucus, you must be a registered voter in Iowa. If you are not and arrive at the caucus early enough, you are able to register upon arrival.

The Republicans and Democrats share a similar process in the beginning, but that’s about their only similarity on caucus night.

Democrats will file in, just as the Republicans will.

Democrats will be able to speak for candidates, whether the speaker intends to vote for that candidate or not. The Democrats will elect a chairperson and a secretary. As well a leadership election, there is a chance for voters to discuss party platform, and suggestions will be handled accordingly.

The caucus will continue for about an hour, according to a Des Moines Register interactive graphic, and the amount of delegates will be chosen for the county convention.

While the Republicans conduct their votes with a secret ballot, the Democrats vote by placing themselves in a specific part of the room to account for a vote. Once people have cast their vote for a candidate, it will be decided if the amount of votes for a specific candidate or ‘undecided’ group, are viable to allow for delegates to be selected.

If realignment needs to occur, there will be time provided for caucusers to cast their vote for another candidate.

Once votes have been cast and counted, the amount of delegates elected to head to the county convention will be decided upon.

The difficulties of this caucus:

The weather is forecasted to be very poor on caucus night. Since it is not a quick run to the ballots on Monday night, there could be less voters who make it out to their community voting.

Also, this could be the largest turnout of millennial voters in election history. There is a lot of support for a variety of candidates by the newest voting generation, but the real question is whether those voters will make it out to caucus, since absentee ballots are not possible.

For caucus coverage, follow us on Twitter #oucovers16.

Did you know there are 14 other caucuses held in the United States during primary season?

Here are the other states besides Iowa:

  • Nevada
  • Alaska
  • American Samoa
  • Colorado
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • Wyoming
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Hawaii
  • Virgin Islands
  • Idaho
  • Guam

American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Guam are able to participate in the process of selecting a candidate.

Originally Published on The Huffington Post.


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