On Feb. 3, Iowa will once again be the first state in the nation to make its voice heard in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election.
It is something that happens each presidential election year in Iowa, which once again will hold caucuses throughout its 99 counties beginning at 7 p.m. that night.
Because caucusing is unique – only three states do it – it can be a confusing process to those who are new to it. Democrats and Republicans each have their own way of caucusing, with Republicans voting by ballot and Democrats standing in groups to show support for their candidate.
Here’s how it works:
There are 26 Republican precincts that meet at caucus sites in Clinton County. Each person at the Republican caucus must be registered to vote as a Republican and must reside in the precinct in which he or she is caucusing. Each precinct will elect a chairperson and secretary and select their leadership.
Each precinct will elect delegates, alternates and junior delegates to the county convention. They will submit planks to the platform. Voters at the caucuses will discuss what stances on various issues they want in the party’s platform. The planks have to be discussed and approved by each precinct and submitted to the county.
The county’s platform will be sent to the district level and a district platform is created. The same will happen at the state level. Caucus-goers will also select local representatives for the county convention.
Democrats who attend their own caucuses not only elect delegates that will support their favorite presidential candidates but discuss the party planks and elect precinct leaders and delegates.
To select candidates, Democrats break into groups that signify who they support. A Democratic party caucus-goer whose candidate does not reach a viability threshold at a caucus site has to choose another one that does. That means the format almost turns into having town criers who are selling the merits of a candidate to draw others in for support.
It is a great process to watch and this year’s large Democratic field means there will be plenty to take in and decide at the Democrats’ sites.
Party platforms also take shape at the caucuses, with those attending outlining items they want to have addressed and added to the platform.
Whether a voter is a Republican or a Democrat, this is a great process to be a part of, and really is government operating at a grass-roots level. While Iowa does have a primary election as well, it’s not for the presidential candidates. On June 2, voters will select state and local officials for their parties.
As you can see, caucusing takes a time commitment, but it is way more interesting than just walking in and marking a ballot or pulling a lever.
And with Iowa leading the nation as the first caucus state – one that is held before every other primary each election season – all eyes turn toward us.
It also is a way for those who are not 18 yet, but will be by the time election day arrives in November, the ability to have their voices heard. This is a great way to get the youngest generation of voters to participate.
We want to encourage our local voters to get out and be a part of this process as we work toward setting the stage for election day on Nov. 3.