What is All the Fuss About the Caucus?

Written by: Cynthia P. Letsch, J.D.

We are all well-aware that Iowa is the center of national political attention every presidential election year (and the whole year before it), and many of us are so sick of the commercials that we simply do not want to participate in the election process, at all.

People in other parts of the world are dying for the opportunity to vote in free elections. We send our own children over-seas to fight and die to help them do just that, yet many of us at home look with ambiguity, and even disdain, on our own opportunity.

It all starts with the caucus. Caucuses are held at the precinct, county, state, and national levels. But the caucus receiving the most media attention is the precinct caucus because the candidate of each party who wins the most delegates at this level are the candidates who are branded as having won the Iowa caucus. This is a major achievement because many people who have won the Iowa caucus have gone on to win the presidency.

The precinct caucus is where small groups of people, defined by voting precinct, get together to debate the candidates and decide which will be their candidate. Each candidate who gets enough votes, is assigned delegates who move on to the next round of caucuses at the county, state, and then, national levels. The more votes, the more delegates a candidate wins. Candidates who do not have enough votes are not assigned delegates. Whether you already know who your candidate is, or you are undecided, you should really participate in the process.

All registered democrats or republicans who will be 18 years old by election-day are eligible to participate at caucus. You must be a registered voter of the party for which you would like to caucus, but usually you can register at the caucus, before it begins. If you are not already registered, consider doing it now, to save time and effort on caucus night.

At caucus, you will also have an opportunity to help shape your party’s platform. The platform is a collection of value statements letting others know what the party is all about: gun control, health care, tax reform, etc.

The nation’s eyes and ears will be on Iowa on caucus night, February 1, 2016. Traditionally, only about 20% of registered voters turn out for caucus night. Let’s put our town on the map, for a robust turnout, shall we?!