How Does a Caucus Work?

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 has no trouble finding candidates who are willing to put forth the effort and those who are not up for the challenge. In a recent event 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 a video explanation:

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, and a secretary to front the evening's evens. According to the Des Moines Register, the caucus generally takes about an hour and delegates will be chosen for the county convention. This year could take longer because of the 13 candidates on the GOP side.

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 by a secret paper ballot the Democratic process.

From there are tallied and then reported to GOP headquarters and the media. But, according to Mike Mahaffey, former Iowa Senatorial candidate and Republican party chair, said party officials will be working to avoid a repeat of the 2012 caucus when they announced that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had won. It wasn't until three weeks later that officails discovered that Rick Santorum was the real winner. By then however, the damage had been done.

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 be able to speak for candidates, whether the speaker intends to vote for that candidate or not.

While the Republicans conduct their votes with a secret ballot, the Democrats vote openly by placing themselves in a specific part of the room to account for a vote. Once people have "cast" their vote for a candidate, caucus leaders determine whether candidate or the "undecided" group have the required 15 percent of the attendees.

It they don't the attendees revote for the remaining candidates or the undecided block.

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.