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Caucuses Explained

What is It?

At the most basic level, it is just a party meeting. On the evening of the Iowa caucus, registered party members attend one of over 1,600 caucuses held around the state in schools, churches, or even someone’s house.


Some individuals take the initiative to give a short speech voicing support for a particular candidate, and then voting happens.


Republicans use a simple count of written votes while Democrats use a more complex system of proportional representation to appoint delegates, which Republicans do following the caucuses and their delegates do not reflect the caucus results.


After that, both caucuses will consider proposed planks to the party platform. 

Why Iowa?

The short answer is easy – sometimes history can be weird, it wasn’t planned, it’s a quirk of historical circumstances and it stuck.


The Democrats had a disastrous national convention in 1968. The candidates were former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, the candidate favored by the party establishment, and Senator Eugene McCarthy, a fierce opponent of the Vietnam War.


However, the most promising candidate for the Democrats was Senator Robert F. Kennedy, but on the night of winning the California primary, he was assassinated. Humphrey and McCarthy went to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which saw thousands of McCarthy-supporting protesters clash with police in the streets, creating chaos and a terrible image for the party.


Thus, they reformed their nominating process to include more young people, women, and people of color using caucuses. 

County Data and Information

Minority Demographics

Iowa’s minority populations tend to be concentrated in certain areas. Hispanic Iowans are spread across the state, although there are higher concentrations of Latinos in Sioux City and Des Moines. Iowa’s Black population tends to be more concentrated in cities, with Waterloo, Des Moines, and other East Iowa cities. Asian Iowans tend to live in urban areas as well, especially college towns like Ames and Iowa City and in more affluent suburbs around Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. Iowa’s Native population is mostly found within the Meskwaki Nation in Tama County, Iowa’s only reservation. 

Voter Registration

Iowa's number of registered voters is almost proportional to the population size of each county, and counties with large urban areas have the highest percentage of Democrats, like Polk County (40%), which contains the Des Moines Metropolitan Area, and Johnson County (49%), including Iowa City.

Residents of smaller counties tend to register as Republican or No Party. One such smaller county is Adams County with Republican or No Party voters making up 82% of registered voters.

Affiliate with a Party

To participate in a precinct caucus, all caucus goers must affiliate with a political party. Because caucuses are official party meetings, only partisans are allowed to participate. Iowa residents must register with a party affiliation to participate in the corresponding caucus and may participate in only one party's caucus each nomination cycle.


To actively participate in the voting process, caucus goers must be a registered party member. Individuals may attend a precinct meeting to spectate as an unaffiliated party member.

Other Resources

Subscribers can access full listings and links to candidate events.

Candidate press releases about their adventures in Iowa and upcoming events.

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