DES MOINES, Iowa (Jan. 31, 2016) – Iowans will fill local churches, community centers and auditoriums to put their mark on the first-in-the-nation caucuses for the 2016 presidential election.
Republicans and Democrats caucus differently, and those rules go back years, so here’s a quick little explainer.
Polls close at 10 p.m. Get your results here.
A Democratic caucus is a bit more complicated.
Caucus-goers will first separate into groups based on who they support.
They’ve then got to remain “viable,” which typically is by having the support of at least 15 percent of everyone in attendance. If not they can try and recruit other supporters or jump over to another candidate.
Sometimes that process can go on for a long time, and there can be a lot of back-and-forth between the groups.
When it’s all said and done, the number of delegates will be given out.
A Republican caucus is more straightforward.
GOP caucus-goers will hear a final pitch from a candidate’s representative or supporter.
They’ll then cast their ballots, typically by writing them down. The ballots will be counted and a winner will be announced. The delegates are awarded proportionally based on those results.
In 2012, about 20 percent of Iowa Republicans caucused when President Obama was seeking re-election.
In 2008, about 40 percent of Democrats caucused, but that number was high, and typically the number of Democrats who participate is closer to 20 percent.
Here’s a nice illustration of how the caucus works from Vermont Public Radio: