How Does The Caucus Work? Iowa Delegates Narrow Down Presidential Candidates

Kim McLendon - Author

Dec. 27 2017, Updated 2:39 a.m. ET

How does the caucus work? What does the word mean? Where did the idea come from? Look no further. Find all the answers to caucus questions below.

Where Are Caucus Meetings Held? Caucus meetings are held in various community buildings, including churches, schools, and government buildings. There are over 1,600 of these precincts or districts, each having a caucus for each party. Altogether, there are more than 3,200 different caucus meetings being held, all in different buildings. Iowa residents can find their caucus locations here. Find Democrat locations via Find Republican locations at

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How Does The Caucus Work If You Are Late? It does not work at all for people who are more than half an hour late. The doors close, and no one can come in after 7 p.m. It pays to be on time for a caucus. Attendees should arrive Monday, February 1 at 6:30 p.m. Those arriving later than 7 p.m. will not be admitted.

What Does Caucus Mean? Where Did The Idea Come From? Most people think the word and the concept are foreign, but according to the Iowa Farm Bureau, it is a purely American concept. Both the idea and the word come from a Native American tribe called the Algonquian. Caucus meant a gathering of tribal leaders. The procedures used are really just modifications of the original process of Native American caucusing.

How Does The Caucus Work For Republican Voters? As with most things, Democrats do caucusing differently than Republicans. Each party developed their own ideas about caucusing, just like they developed different political platforms over the years. The process is really a lot simpler for Republicans. Republicans report to their designated caucusing location, write the name of their candidate, and cast their vote, which can be kept secret. This usually takes about half an hour. Then delegates are assigned proportionally based on the vote total for the entire state. If that sounds familiar and similar to what everyone else does in other states, then you are right, but just look at the caucus process for Democrats. It is quite different.

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How Does The Caucus Work For Democrat Voters? The Democrat caucus is more complex and sounds like more fun, but it can take hours. First, representatives for each candidate make a sort of pitch speech, trying to sell voters on their candidate. Then, voters move around the room, gathering in like-minded groups according to which candidate they intend to support. Those who are undecided also gather in another part of the room designated for the undeclared.

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How Does The Caucus Work Inside A Building? It usually takes a large building like a gym to hold a Democrat caucus because of all the separations. Each candidate has a room corner or section in which their supporters gather. Officials do a head count, and if a group has less than 15 percent of the overall attendees, then they have an opportunity to try to convince others to join their group. If they are unsuccessful in coaxing enough attendees to their group, their group is disbanded. Then that candidate’s supporters must either chose another candidate’s group or go to the undeclared section to make up their minds.

Any time that the undeclared section becomes less than 15 percent, their group is also disbanded, and those who were previously undecided must make a choice of remaining candidate supporter groups immediately. At any time prior to the final count, attendees can change candidate groups. Only if the undeclared group remains at 15 percent are undecided delegates appointed to go to the county convention as undeclared. The delegates for each district are divided up according to the number of supporters in each candidate’s group, compared to the number of delegates.


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