With the Iowa caucuses underway, a lot of questions have surfaced about what they are and how they work. 


The Iowa caucuses are the first nominating contest of the 2020 election cycle. They begin Monday, February 3rd at 8 p.m. eastern time, or 7 p.m. local time. All constituents that will be 18 or older on Election Day are eligible to participate. 


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Voters who are registered as Democrats will be allowed to vote for Democratic candidates, while voters who are registered as Republicans will be allowed to vote for Republican candidates.  Same-day registration is available at precinct caucus locations.


Turnouts are supposed to be higher than 2008, where nearly 240,000 Iowans participated in the caucuses. 1,679 precincts will meet to caucus throughout the state. Democrats in Iowa will also hold a number of “satellite” caucuses (60 in state, 24 out of state and three international — in Tbilisi, Georgia; Glasgow, Scotland; and Paris, France) for those who are unable to travel to a caucus location.


Depending on the party, the caucuses have different methods. On the Democratic side, participants move around the caucus site according to which candidate they support. At most Democratic caucuses, a candidate must get support from at least 15 percent of caucus attendees to achieve viability. If that percent isn’t reached, the candidates’ supporters with the least support must move to a different viable candidate. The number of delegates awarded at each caucus site is determined by the mathematical formula: the multiplication of the number of people supporting your candidate and the number of total delegates the caucus is electing divided by the total number of people at the caucus. 

Then the party will release three sets of results: “the first expression of preference” before realignment, the “final expression of preference” after realignment and state delegate equivalents (the number used to determine the “winner” in past results). This final expression number is the one used to determine who gets delegates and who doesn’t.

Unlike the Democrats, Republicans will choose their candidate though anonymous ballots. There is no 15 percent viability required, no realignments, and there’s no mathematical formula involved. Whoever gains the most support through a secret ballot is granted the delegates. Because President Donald Trump is running with little opposition, he is expected to win the Iowa Caucus for the Republican Party. 


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