Q: What is a caucus?
A: The word “caucus” is a Native American word, thought to be of Algonquin origin, meaning a gathering of the ruling tribal chiefs. The modern definition describes caucuses as the process by which political party members gather to make policy decisions and to select candidates.
Q: How do the political parties plan for the caucuses?
A: Planning begins during the spring of every odd numbered year for the next year’s precinct Caucus. The Democratic and Republican parties work closely to discuss a date for the Caucus. Once a date is established, each state party notifies its county parties of the date, locations in each precinct are reserved, caucus materials are printed, and trainings are planned.
Q: Where are the caucuses located?
A: Iowans gather according to party preference in designated schools, public buildings, churches, or even in private homes. Every effort is made to use public buildings for caucus locations, however, when public buildings are not available, churches or private residences are used. The caucus location is determined by the County Chairs of each political party for all 1,680 precincts. Individual locations are determined by accessibility and the expected turnout of each precinct. The polling locations for your primary and general elections are normally not the same location for your precinct’s caucus.
Q: What time do the caucuses start?
A: The caucuses begin promptly at 7:00pm but any participants should plan to arrive at their precinct location by 6:30pm to get checked in and seated. Arriving early allows for the caucus to begin on time.
Q: Who votes in a caucus?
A: Anyone who will be 18 by Election Day 2020 may attend and participate in a caucus. Participants must be registered with the party of the caucus they are attending. Voter registration forms are available at each caucus location and participants can register the same day that they caucus. Younger Iowans who are not eligible to participate as a registered voter are encouraged to attend to learn about the caucus experience. Young people may also wish to be elected as a junior delegate. Each phase of the Caucus-to-Convention process has special sessions for junior delegates to learn about the process.
Q: Do voters need to be registered to attend and participate in the caucus? If so, can an individual register at the caucus? Can party affiliation be changed when the voter arrives?
A: Again, anyone who wishes to participate in a caucus must be a registered voter with the party of the caucus they wish to attend. An eligible individual can register at the caucus and/or change their party affiliation at the caucus by filling out an official voter registration form.
Q: Can someone go to the caucus to observe without participating?
A: Yes, individuals who would like to attend a caucus as an observer but not as a participant may do so, however, they should contact the county party of the caucus they wish to attend to ensure space is available at the location.
Q: Can I volunteer to help at my local caucus? If so, how?
A: Yes! Volunteers are essential to successfully holding a caucus. It takes roughly 10,000 volunteers to run a caucus statewide and help is always welcomed. You can contact the Republican Party of Iowa and ask to volunteer in your precinct, or sign up by clicking here: https://www.iowagop.org/caucus-volunteer/