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Explainer: How Will This Year's GOP Caucuses Work in Iowa?

Friday, December 30, 2011

I have been asked to explain how this magical thing called the Iowa Caucuses work. My friends at the Iowa GOP have provided me with the basic secret information. Here we go!

The caucuses start at 7 pm across the state in school classrooms and public libraries - almost 1800 different locations throughout the state will see neighborsshow up to do their political duty. At this year's Iowa GOP caucus, four important matters of business will be completed:

First, the Presidential Poll is taken. At the beginning of a precinct caucus meeting, the Caucus Chairman will call for the Presidential Preference Poll. Any presidential candidate or candidate's representative is given the floor to speak on behalf of his or her candidate, and then ballots are passed out for the poll.

Caucus-goers write their preference on the ballot, and the results are reported to both the precinct caucus, the State GOP's headquarters at a secret location (a precaution taken after the hacker group Anyonymous threatened to manipulate the results), and the national media. Each caucus precinct captain will call the results in to the central HQ. They have been asked to keep the paper ballots in case there is an attack on the system so the results can be verified.

Second, leaders are elected to the county central committee. Nominations are taken and an election will be held for "precinct committee leaders," who represent all Republicans living in the precinct on the county Republican central committee.

Third, delegates are elected to the Republican County Convention. If you are thinking about running as a delegate for the Iowa Republican State Convention or the Republican National Convention, this is where that process begins. If you're a student who is not of voting age but would like to be a Junior Delegate, you can sign up at the precinct caucus after delegates are elected to the County Convention.

Fourth and last, platform issues for the Republican Party platform are submitted and discussed for consideration at the county's Republican convention.

So this is the basic streamlined version of how this works. It’s very different from primaries where voters actually can vote at polling places all day long as in regular elections. Because the caucuses require more effort by voters, the turnout is usually lower. 

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Comments [2]

Wilfrid Noel Raby from New YOrk city

As a moderate republican in NY, I am embarassed by my party. I have felt that most of the speeches, except the one by Ms. Rice, were disingenuous and hypocritical. What could not have been said at the convention, is that the failure they attrivute to President Obama, was actually a failure of congress, for which my party is also responsible. The signal moment for me in the past 4 years was when Speaker Bainor (sic)could not rally is base in a budget deal with the President that would have cut billions in the deficit. since when are republicans against deficit reduction? The lack of further growth in job creation is as much a republican responsability for their apathy and unwillingness to put the country first. They could not get past their narrow goal of political gain.

What would have been more genuine to say if they had joined the president on this "good enough plan" was that we were able to put through part of our agenda, but now we want to take to its full fruition. that too would have been a great line for Candidate Romney, but this was not said at the convention, cannot be genuinely said by Paul Ryan, and will not be part of the campaign to come.

Aug. 31 2012 10:34 AM
Scott from New York City

As a New Yorker who's a former Iowan--born, raised, and graduated college in the Hawkeye State--I'm glad for Professor Schmidt's involvement with WNYC, and I look forward to WNYC's coverage of the 2012 caucuses. I've recently returned from my annual holiday trip home to central Iowa, where this visit a state legislator told me Rick Santorum would carry the local county on Jan. 3rd or come in a close second place behind Ron Paul.

I was incredulous relative to Santorum doing so well. About 48 hours later, the first polls were released showing that a surge in the former US Senator's popularity had been occurring. I then recalled a pundit on ABC's "This Week" [then with Christiane Amanpour] having said earlier in December to not underestimate the potential dividends of Santorum's months-long hard work in Iowa. It reminded me of the value journalists find in informed, honest, and sufficiently forthright sources near to the action, and in their own experience. We'll see if the legislator’s prediction and the pundit's observation hold true. Based on my own inexpert observations while in Iowa, I think Santorum may in fact win the county that I was in, but I think Romney will win the state.

The only frontline observation of my own that I make with any confidence is that yard signs are thin on the ground! I saw only five signs in four days in and around a town of 15,500 people fairly near Des Moines. Also, I saw not one bumper sticker! When I was growing up in Iowa, forests of candidate yard signs cropped up in neighborhoods; farmers put them in fields and ditches, and sometimes even painted the sides of barns with their favorite candidate's name. Even in 2007 while driving along I-80, I recall seeing Clinton, Obama, and Edwards signs. Does the disappearance of the yard sign reflect a lack of voter enthusiasm, or perhaps indecision—an unusually long wait-and-see stance by Hawkeye Republicans? Or maybe smaller campaign budgets? Maybe lesser focus on Iowa by the campaigns? Has the rise of social media or the dominance this cycle of televised debates displaced the need for the valiant foot soldiers of Iowa caucus campaign advertising, those brave little signs that endure wind, snow, the rare defacement attempt, and the more common assault from dog urine?

Apparently, I miss the humble yard sign.

Jan. 02 2012 12:46 PM

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