Wikimedia Commons, Dwight Burdette
As the spotlight shines on Iowa early in the presidential election year, many look to the Iowa caucuses to see who the leaders in the presidential race will be.
These neighborhood meetings, run by the state parties, are opportunities for voters to show support for a candidate and voice the issues that are important to them. Iowa caucuses will take place Feb. 3 in nearly 1,700 precincts across the state.
Caucuses are held every two years for each party to present their platform and discuss upcoming events. In presidential election years, the caucuses are also used to determine who each party's nominee should be. The ACLU of Iowa said this is an opportunity for Iowans to make their voices heard.
Caucus participants must be eligible to vote and must be 18 years of age by election day. Participants must be registered to the party for which they are caucusing, and party registration can be updated at each precinct caucus. Participants must reside in the precinct in which they are caucusing.
At a Democratic caucus, participants will be asked to sign in before assembling in different parts of the room based on their candidate preference. Each candidate must retain a certain number of supporters (15 percent of total present) to stay viable. Supporters for candidates without enough support will be given the opportunity to realign, choose another candidate or persuade others to support their candidate. A final count is taken after realignment, and each candidate is assigned a number of delegates to the county convention based on the number of supporters. After all of this, the remainder of party business will be conducted and resolutions will be heard.
At a Republican caucus, a straw poll is taken and participants write down who they think should be the nominee. Those results are called in to a central location. Delegates are then elected from those present at the caucus – they are not apportioned based on candidate preference. Once delegates are elected, party business is conducted and the floor is open for resolutions.
These precinct caucuses are just the first stop on the road to the state conventions.