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.