The Iowa caucuses are happening tonight--here are five important things to know about this important facet of the political process, according to USA Today.
1. When do the caucuses begin?
The caucuses will begin at 7 p.m. Central Time. Voters, campaigners, and candidates will gather at various places throughout the state. Seven p.m. is not, however, the time that voting actually begins. Speeches in support of candidates are heard first.
2. How do the caucuses actually work?
The Iowa caucuses are not as straightforward as voting in a general election. Voters do not simply walk up to a voting booth, mark who they want to vote for, and receive an “I voted” sticker.
Democrats and Republicans each caucus differently. Democratic voters form groups at each precinct based on which candidate they support. Supporters of candidates who receive less than 15 percent support must then realign their support with a candidate who received more than 15 percent support. Republicans rely on straw polls taken by secret ballot. These polls, meant to gauge popular public opinion, will then be used to influence the delegates chosen and which candidates they support.
3. When do the Iowa caucuses end?
As mentioned earlier, the Iowa caucuses are not as rigid as general election voting. Subsequently, there is no strict “poll closing” time. Caucuses are allowed to run their course. The precise ending time may depend upon how many speeches are given, how long it takes supporters to choose which candidate to support, etc. The results of the caucuses do, however, tend to be reported to news sources sometime after 9 p.m. CT.
4. So, will we know for sure who wins the Iowa caucuses tonight?
That is the goal, but if caucusing goes longer than expected, results from some precincts may be reported late. In 2012, Mitt Romney was declared the winner of Iowa, only to find out two weeks later that some votes hadn’t been counted and Rick Santorum actually won. USA Today notes that both parties are working with Mircrosoft to develop an app that would report results in a more timely, efficient manner.
5. What are some particular things to look for in tonight’s caucuses?
Tonight is shaping up to be a tight race between Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Clinton's campaign is thought to have more momentum and to be more organized than in the 2008 caucus, but Sanders has many passionate supporters. Though Trump and Cruz are likely to do well in the caucuses, a candidate who comes strongly in third may also have enough momentum to rise in polls heading into the New Hampshire primary. Another thing that the Iowa caucuses will likely decide is which candidates will drop out of the race. Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley has struggled throughout his campaign to gain support, and there are many in the crowded Republican field who view Iowa as a deciding factor in the continued viability of their campaigns.
Photo courtesy: flickr.com
Publication date: February 1, 2016