February 3, 2020


How Do the Iowa Democratic Caucuses Work? (MOLLY OLMSTEAD, FEB 03, 2020, Slate)

On Monday, 1,678 local gathering spots will be converted into caucus locations. Each candidate will be allowed one section of the gym, church, or library serving as the precinct. When the time comes, supporters will physically group themselves into the section belonging to their preferred candidate.

To be able to participate, registered Democrats will need to be lined up by 7 p.m (Iowans can also register with the party at the event itself). Doors open by 6:30, and each participant will be handed a "presidential preference card" that serves as a backup if a recount is needed. After local officials conduct some party business (representatives for the candidates may themselves be allowed to make speeches in a last-minute appeal to caucusgoers), the main event begins.

There are two rounds to the process. For the first, Iowans gather at the corner of the room representing their top candidate. As that happens, supporters are allowed to try to convince undecided voters to join them. Eventually, all participants will have settled into one of the camps or decided to hold off as an undecided voter.

Officials tally up the number of heads in each group. If a candidate has scored at least 15 percent of the room, that candidate is declared "viable" and made it to the second round. According to the new rules being implemented this year, the candidate's supporters are now locked in and unable to change their vote. This rule also creates an incentive not to hold back and wait to see how the first round plays out: If more than 15 percent of voters remain undecided, they become locked in with their undecided bloc, as well.

For the second round, those who committed to candidates who failed to reach that 15 percent threshold are released in a process known as realignment. They can choose to join an already viable candidate, try to win over other caucusgoers to make their preferred candidate viable, or withdraw from the process entirely. In previous years, multiple rounds of this process would follow, but under the new rules, the final result is sealed with this second round.

Each precinct is allocated a certain number of county delegates, based on the caucus turnout from previous election years. The final stage of the night involves electing those county delegates in proportion with the candidates' number of supporters.

Posted by at February 3, 2020 12:00 AM