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Some information on how the Iowa Caucus works

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posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 02:39 AM
We are under a week away from the Iowa Caucus and there is a lot of buzz on ATS about it. Who will win, can , does it matter who wins, how many delegates does the winner get (funny answer to this one below).

But really...who actually knows how the Iowa Caucus works. It really isn't a straight forward or simple process. And doesn't even mean anything...the "winner" actually doesn't "win" anything.

So let's look at the process of the Iowa Caucus.

First off, what is a Caucus and how does it differ from a Primary?


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

Primary vs Caucus:
Well, there is no good short and quick answer for this. I'm not going to copy and paste a lot of external content here, but here are some links that discuss it. For a short and dirty answer...a Caucus is a meeting and a Primary is more like a regular election vote. But here are some links that explain it in more detail.

Ok, seems simple let's get into the details of the Iowa Caucus.

•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.

Here is a little more information at this link, most of the same, but presented a little differently.

Again...seems simple enough...but there are some details in there that are very important.

Notice where the talk about the "Presidential Preference Poll"...this is most likely what everyone will hear about the night of the Caucus. This is what all the news stations will be reporting and the results of this will show who "won" the Caucus.

Now...notice a little further down where it says the primary function of the Caucus is for official party business...and one of those items is "electing delegates". This is what is really important...because what it doesn't say in the above article is that the Presidential Preference Poll is NON-BINDING....meaning it doesn't mean anything.

So, what does the "winner" of the Iowa Caucus get....absolutely nothing. This is the funniest part about the one wins any delegates that night...none.

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.

So what really happens at the Iowa Caucus??? Really only two important things happen.

First, they have a non-binding Presidential Preferential Poll. This is what you will see on January 3rd...the results of this will show who "won" the Caucus.

Second, people at the Caucus will also elect precinct delegate that will go to the county convention.

After that, those precinct delegates will go to the country convention and elect county delegates, they will go to the state convention, which will elect state delegates to go to the national convention. This not clear...I can't find any solid information on who or how these other delegates are elected.

This is from take it with a grain of salt.

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.

Now, here is the kicker. The Iowa delegates that go to the convention are not bound by the Caucus vote. So do you remember who won the Iowa Caucus last year??? Mike Huckabee...right???

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.

Confused yet???

But really, I just wanted to make people aware that the Iowa Caucus is a non-binding poll. No delegates are awarded and the winner doesn't really win anything except a media exposure. And most importantly, the Presidential Preference Poll is not the vote that selects the delegates...but it is the result you will see Jan. 3rd.
I think the CNN article linked above said it the best.

The Iowa caucuses: a media game

posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 10:12 AM
Ok, I wrote this in the middle of the I'm giving it a shameless bump.

Maybe I was the only one that didn't know the full process of the Iowa Caucus and this information isn't new to everyone else.

posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 10:40 AM
I think that a thread on how each caucus works in the nominating process is actually a very vital one. Most of us aren't involved in this -- a timely subject in a year that's going to be politically noisy.

posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 11:16 AM
reply to post by Byrd

Yes, every Caucus and Primary is slightly different in each can get confusing.

I found some more information on the Iowa GOP website...some is more of the same, but it gives a overview of what actually happens at the Caucus.

■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.

The one piece of information that I am still trying to find is what happens if you aren't in the doors by 7pm. I remember last year a lot of controversy of some Caucuses closing it's doors right at the time the Caucus began and not letting anyone else in.

I don't know what Iowa's policy is about this. If there is a huge line outside...will the let everyone in that is in line at 7pm...or do they close the doors at 7pm.

If anyone knows this information, I would be interested in hearing about it.

posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 11:29 AM
Funny how the importance of the Iowa Caucus winner is brought into question only when the potential winner is not who the MSM has picked.

The results of the Caucus may not legally bind anyone to anything but it sends a clear message to the rest of the population (you know...the voters) who is and isn't electable. If the "winner" of the Caucus does not receive the national delegates vote, it is not a fault of the people but of the corrupt delegates who choose to ignore the peoples choice. Which in this year would only drive more to the anti-gov/ows/"crazies" way of thinking.

However knowing how each primary/caucus works is important, and I thank you for the information presented.
edit on 29-12-2011 by Vardoger because: (no reason given)

edit on 29-12-2011 by Vardoger because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 11:48 AM
reply to post by OutKast Searcher

The system could not be more confusing and corrupt... kind of like the monetary system.

It is incredible that anyone actually even remotely could deny it is purposely designed for RIGGING THE WHOLE THING.

posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 12:01 PM
And the more I look into gets more and more strange.

It is estimated that Iowa will have 28 delegates this year for the GOP convention (calculating this in itself is a confusing process). Here is a list of estimated counts.

Only some of these delegates come indirectly from the Caucuses. To me, this is the most important piece of information for Iowa.

The Caucuses are run by precinct...each precinct elects a delegate (this is a seperate process from the Presidential Poll). So one delegate from each precincts go to a county convention to elect district delegates. There are 1784 precincts in Iowa, and only 99 counties in Iowa. So the amount of delegates goes from 1784 to 99. So not only do candidates need to win the precinct, they need to make sure they win the majority of the precincts in a county to ensure they get their delegate elected at the county convention.

Now we are down to 99 delegates...and these go to district conventions. Right now Iowa has 5 congressional districts ( ). I believe each district gets 3 delegates. So those 99 delegates goes down to 10 delegates.

So out of Iowas 28 delegates, 10 come from the Caucus...the remaining are elected by party officials at the Iowa GOP State convention. All 28 are unbound delegates, but 10 of them come from the caucus and may or may not honor the results of their district results.

I love elections...I love the numbers and going deeper into them than just what the media reports. I will try to get the Caucus results for each precinct, county and district after the Caucus and maybe we can estimate how many of the 10 delegates each Candidate may get.

posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 12:03 PM
reply to post by GrinchNoMore

I could have done a whole thread on just how the delegates are assigned.

See my previous post to see how the delegates are assigned and how little the Caucus results effect that.

I is confusing and really unnecessary. Just have a vote, divide your delegates based on the percentage each candidate gets and bind them to the results.

Seems easy to me.

posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 02:47 PM
Great thread and posts, OP.

Didn't know much about the caucuses except when I went to the '08 caucus in WA for Obama, and of course, I was for him then.

All I can say is, anyone in Iowa, get in there and represent our Ron Paul. If he doesn't get the nomination, which he probably won't, Obama is guaranteed re-election.

posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 05:54 PM

off-topic post removed to prevent thread-drift


posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 07:00 PM
reply to post by yinyang04011

If Ron Paul gets the nomination, he wins. If he doesn't the Republicans are split between Ron Paul as an independent and the Republican nominee, so Obama wins. Simple as that.

posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 01:34 AM

off-topic post removed to prevent thread-drift


posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 12:43 PM
Our bizarre electoral system is actually courtesy of our Founding Fathers... who didn't believe that the populace was well enough educated to pick a good candidate and who wanted small states to have as much a say in the matter as large states. (brief statements here)

WikiAnswers has an interesting debate about this at this link

It's an interesting and bizarre system to ensure fairness, but the "fairness" it ensured is starting to lead to real problems. Now the big issue is -- what's the better way to determine who runs for a party, and how can you get people who represent the party rather than rashes of folks joining just to promote a cause and then abandoning a party?

What seems to happen in new democracies is that you get hundreds of little parties and what they do is form a coalition of parties to bring their interests in power. That way the (say) Purple Panther party can unite with the Orange Bowling Party to nominate Elvis Presley -- and they're free to recombine with other parties (the Orange Bowling with the Upright Pinsetters versus Purple Panthers and Operation Polkadots) when their interests collide (over, say, whether or not schools should teach about King Arthur.)

posted on Jan, 3 2012 @ 12:01 PM
Iowa Caucus is tonight.

It's going to be a close one...and obviously a confusing one.

posted on Jan, 3 2012 @ 11:29 PM
Unpinning, waiting for someone to put up a "how New Hampshire voting works" thread.

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