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It’s Caucus Time: When? Where? How?

By Staff | Dec 31, 2007

It’s caucus time in Iowa again, and as citizens of the “Tall Corn State,” all Iowans should make an effort to let their voices be heard. This year’s caucuses will be held Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008. The state of Iowa is the first state in the nation to hold presidential caucuses, and has done so since 1976. This is Iowa’s time to showcase their views and ideals and present them to the world.

As any resident of Iowa can tell you, the past year has found our newspapers, televisions, and radios filled with information and advertisements for both Democrat and Republican presidential hopefuls. It’s time to compile that data together, join with your fellow Iowans, and make decisions that will help to shape our country in the coming years.

Those who will be of legal voting age (18) by the time of the Nov. 4, 2008, General Election are eligible to participate in this year’s caucuses. Participants must be registered as Democrats or Republicans, and will be able to register the night of the caucuses.

Following is a brief synopsis of caucus details taken from “http://www.iowacaucus.org.”>www.iowacaucus.org.

Q: What is a caucus?

A: The word caucus is a North American Indian word, thought to be of Algonquin origin, meaning a gathering of the ruling tribal chiefs. The modern definition describes a caucus as a process of political party member gathering to make policy decisions and to select candidates.

Q: When are the caucuses?

A: The caucuses in Iowa are held two years. The caucuses held in the off-presidential years are usually smaller and focus on the party platform. The caucuses that coincide with presidential elections are better attended and receive more media attention.

Q: Who participates in the caucus?

A: Any voter who is a registered Republican or Democrat, and can prove residency in Iowa, can participate in the caucus of their party.

Q: How does the caucus work?

A: On caucus night, Iowans gather by party preference to elect delegates to the 99 county conventions. Presidential preference on the Republican side is done with a straw vote of those attending the caucus. This vote is sometimes done by a show of hands or by dividing themselves into groups according to candidate. In precincts that elect only one delegate they choose the delegate by majority vote and it must be a paper ballot. Democratic candidates must receive at least 15 percent of the votes in that precinct to move on to the county convention.

If a candidate receives less than 15 percent of the votes, supporters of non-viable candidates have the option to join a viable candidate group, join another non-viable candidate group to become viable, join other groups to form an uncommitted group or chose to go nowhere and not be counted. A “third party” may hold a convention to nominate one candidate for president and one for vice president as well. The results of this caucus activity on both the Democratic and Republican sides are not binding on the elected delegates, but the delegates usually feel obligated to follow the wishes expressed by the caucus-goers. Thus the initial caucus results provide a good barometer of the composition of Iowa’s national delegation.