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Preview of Caucus Night 2016

If you've been following the news for the last year, you have probably heard the phrase "Iowa Caucus" at least 1,000,000 times, give or take a few. Just because you have heard the phrase, though, does not mean you are fully up-to-speed on what to expect Caucus night, until now.

Caucus night is relatively similar for Democrats and Republicans in Iowa, except for how the Presidential vote occurs, which we will get to in a bit. When it comes to the similarities:


  • Participant must be 18 by November 8, 2016 (general election day).
  • Participant must live in the precinct in which they plan to caucus.
  • Participant must be a registered Iowa voter.

*You can register at the door on Caucus night. That includes if you have never registered in the past, or if you are switching party affiliation for the night.

  • Participants must be in line or signed in by 7:00 p.m.
  • Media and observers are allowed to attend, but not participate.
  • Early arrivers can review/sign candidate petitions for local, state and federal office.
  • A precinct chair and secretary will be named once the caucus begins.
  • Speeches can be made in support of candidates


  • Votes will be cast on a secret ballot.
  • The results are tallied/delegates for each precinct are divided based on a pre-determined formula.
  • Results are reported to the state for public display.


  • Precinct Chair calls for the formation of Presidential Preference Groups
  • Supporters of candidates (Sanders/Clinton/O'Malley) and undeclared move to different parts of the room.
  • The number of people in each group is counted.
  1. If each group has 15% of the people in the room, the process is over and the precinct's delegates are divided amongst all candidates based on a formula.
  2. If there is a group with 15%, thirty minutes are placed "on the clock" and the people in the groups with fewer than 15% can move to a new group.
  • The number of people in each group is counted again and delegates are divided amongst the candidates with at least 15% of the people in their group.
  • Results are reported to the state for public display.


  • Caucus-goers are encouraged to stay, but most of them leave after the vote
  • Those who remain will help fill local party positions, vote on the county platform, and other duties.