On February 3, 2020, all eyes will be on Iowa and our first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. This is a powerful opportunity for you as an Iowan to make your voice heard.
The Iowa caucuses are essentially neighborhood meetings of the major political parties. The Democrats and the Republicans this year will hold caucuses in nearly 1,700 precincts across the state.
Caucuses are not elections. They are the mechanism through which individuals show their support for a candidate, and tell the parties what issues matter. Attending a caucus is easy and is a fascinating insight into our political process.
Every other year, Democrats and Republicans hold caucuses in nearly 1,700 precincts across the state. During the caucuses, YOU have the opportunity to speak up for issues that matter most to you.
What Exactly Are the Iowa Caucuses?
The Iowa caucuses are essentially neighborhood meetings of those political parties which were able to garner a set amount of votes in the previous general election.
Caucuses are not elections. They are run by the state parties and not state government. They are the mechanism through which individuals show their support for a candidate, and tell the parties what issues matter to them.
Every two years, the two major political parties hold these caucus meetings to discuss their platform and upcoming events. But every four years, during the presidential elections, the caucuses are also used to determine who the parties’ presidential nominee should be.
Since Iowa is the first state in the nation to hold a caucus or primary, during Februaries of presidential election years, all eyes are in Iowa to see who the early leaders will be in the presidential race.
The caucus system, rightly, has come under criticism in recent years. Other states, like New Hampshire, hold primaries where people simply cast a vote to conduct similar party business. Unlike casting a vote, which you can do in minutes over a period of a day, the caucuses require people to be physically present for a few hours. That makes participation difficult for people who can't get or afford child care, people living with disabilities or mobility issues, people who lack transportation, and people who work evenings.
What To Expect at a Caucus
What to expect at your local caucus largely depends on which party's caucus you decide to attend. As a result, a Democratic caucus is different from a Republican Caucus.
Some good key facts to know when attending the caucuses.
- The caucuses start at 7:00 p.m. sharp! Arrive early, because once the caucus starts, late-comers will not be allowed in.
- You must be registered to the party for which you are caucusing. That means you must be a registered Democrat to participate in the Democratic caucus, and you must be a registered Republican to participate in the Republican caucus.
- If you are not registered to a party or are registered to a different party, you can still caucus. You can change your party registration at your precinct caucus.
- You must reside in the precinct where you are caucusing.
- You must be eligible to vote. If you have not registered to vote yet, you will be able to do this at your precinct caucus.
- You must be 18 years old by election day.
- Precinct caucus may last anywhere from an hour to several hours, depending on the size of the caucus. You are allowed to leave at any point.
Caucus to Convention
Precinct caucuses are just a first step in Iowa's presidential nomination process. Both the Democratic and Republican Caucuses follow the same basic procedural pathway:
- Precinct Caucuses (February): These happen at the neighborhood level. Here, individuals indicate a preference for president, elect delegates to represent their precinct at the county level, and discuss resolutions.
- County Conventions (March): The delegates elected from the precincts go to the county Conventions, vote on resolutions to be sent to the district level, and elect delegates to go to the District Conventions, and on to the State Conventions.
- District Conventions (Usually April): Resolutions approved at the county conventions will be combined and voted on at the District Conventions. From here, they are sent to the party to become part of the party platform.
- State Conventions (Usually May): Delegates for the national convention are selected and the state party platform is finalized.