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a closed meeting of a group of persons belonging to the same political party or faction usually to select candidates or to decide on policy; also : a group of people united to promote an agreed-upon cause
•Iowans have used the caucus process since Iowa became a state in the 1840s.
•All 1,774 precincts in Iowa hold a Republican caucus.
•Caucus sites are usually in public buildings such as schools or libraries, but churches, private residences and other spaces are used as well.
•In Presidential years, the most notable item on the caucus agenda is the Republican Presidential Preference Poll.
•In most precincts, the Presidential Preference Poll is a simple, secret-ballot vote. Republican voters from the precinct are each given one ballot to write down their preference for the Republican presidential nominee.
•Presidential candidates do not have to file, apply or pay a fee to be included in the preference poll. It is a candidates responsibility to convince voters to write their name down on a ballot. In most cases, counties will hand out blank pieces of paper for Republicans to write down their preference for the nominee.
•Before the poll, each campaign is allowed to have one surrogate or volunteer speak on behalf of his or her candidate. One volunteer or surrogate per campaign is also allowed to observe the counting of the ballots after the poll. The results are then announced to the caucus attendees before being reported to the Iowa GOP.
The primary function of the caucus is to conduct party business. Official business of the precinct caucus includes electing members to the county Republican central committee, electing delegates, alternates and junior delegates to the county convention, electing precinct people to any committees for the County Convention and discussing and submitting platform issues to the County Convention.
What time do the caucuses begin? All caucuses begin at 7 P.M. Central time on Tuesday, January 3, 2012. It is advisable, however, to arrive at your precinct site before 7 P.M.
Guess how many of these delegates will be selected in Iowa on January 3. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
Want to know what really happens in Iowa in January? Not much. A few thousand people who care enough about politics to spend an evening at their local library or church basement will decide who gets to attend the state GOP's county conventions in March.
They'll also participate in a non-binding presidential preference vote. ("Non-binding" means the state's national convention delegates do not have to vote according to the preferences of caucus participants.)
And that's about it.
Delegates from the precinct caucuses go on to the county conventions, which choose delegates to the district conventions, which in turn selects delegates to the Iowa State Convention. Thus, it is the Republican Iowa State Convention, not the precinct caucuses, which selects the ultimate delegates from Iowa to the Republican National Convention. All delegates are officially unbound from the results of the precinct caucus, although media organizations either estimate delegate numbers by estimating county convention results or simply divide them proportionally.
Remember Mike Huckabee's big win in the 2008 Iowa GOP caucuses? The party's eventual nominee, John McCain, won all of Iowa's delegate votes at the national convention.
The Iowa caucuses: a media game
■All caucus participants arrive at their precincts where they will sign in at the door upon arrival. Caucuses will begin at 7:00PM CT.
■The caucus meetings begin with the pledge of allegiance. A caucus chair and secretary will be elected by the body to run the meeting and take notes.
■After the chair and secretary are elected, candidate representatives from each campaign are given time to speak on behalf of their candidate.
■Once the speakers have finished, sheets of paper are be passed out to every registered Iowa Republican from the precinct. Voters then write down their candidate preference.
■All votes are then collected.
■Every vote is counted. The caucus chair and secretary will count the votes in front of the caucus and a representative from each campaign is allowed to observe the counting of the votes. The results are recorded on an official form provided by the Republican Party of Iowa and are announced to the caucus.
■A caucus reporter is chosen to report the results to the Republican Party of Iowa, accompanied by campaign representatives to verify the results reported to Iowa GOP officials.
■RPI officials do not count results; they aggregate them from around the state and report them to the media. To ensure consistency in reporting, campaign representatives have the opportunity to be present with RPI officials as votes are reported to the public.
■We will be reporting the votes for Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, “No Preference,” and “Other.”
■“No Preference” votes include those who vote “present,” “no preference, “uncommitted,” or “none of the above.”
■Within fourteen days of the caucus, certified results will be released for a complete breakdown of all caucus votes that were cast by precinct.
■After the Presidential preference poll is completed the caucus will elect precinct committee representatives; delegates, alternates, and junior delegates to the county convention; and discuss and submit platform resolutions for consideration at the county convention.