Thursday, January 3, 2008

How To Caucus

Because it’s a lot more complicated than a secret ballot and one vote for person

Slate V explains

Republican Party process
For the Republicans, the Iowa caucus follows (and should not be confused with) the Ames Straw Poll in August of the preceding year. Out of the five Ames Straw Poll iterations, 1987 is the only year in which the winner of the Ames Straw Poll has not gone on to win the Iowa caucus.

In the Republican caucuses, each voter casts his or her vote by secret ballot. Voters are presented blank sheets of paper with no candidate names on them. After listening to some campaigning for each candidate by caucus participants, they write their choices down and the Republican Party of Iowa tabulates the results at each precinct and transmits them to the media.[3] The non-binding results are tabulated and reported to the state party which releases the results to the media. Delegates from the precinct caucuses go on to the County Convention, which chooses delegates to the District Convention, which in turn selects delegates to the State Convention. Thus it is the Republican State Convention, not the precinct caucuses, which select the ultimate delegates to the Republican National Convention in Iowa.

Democratic Party process
The process used by the Democrats is more complex than the Republican Party caucus process. Each precinct divides its delegate seats among the candidates in proportion to caucus goers' votes.

Participants indicate their support for a particular candidate by standing in a designated area of the caucus site (forming a "preference group"). An area may also be designated for undecided participants. Then, for roughly 30 minutes, participants try to convince their neighbors to support their candidates. Each preference group might informally deputize a few members to recruit supporters from the other groups and, in particular, from among those undecided. Undecided participants might visit each preference group to ask its members about their candidate.

After 30 minutes, the electioneering is temporarily halted and the supporters for each candidate are counted. At this point, the caucus officials determine which candidates are "viable". Depending on the number of county delegates to be elected, the "viability threshold" can be anywhere from 15% to 25% of attendees. For a candidate to receive any delegates from a particular precinct, he or she must have the support of at least the percentage of participants required by the viability threshold. Once viability is determined, participants have roughly another 30 minutes to "realign": the supporters of inviable candidates may find a viable candidate to support, join together with supporters of another inviable candidate to secure a delegate for one of the two, or choose to abstain. This "realignment" is a crucial distinction of caucuses in that (unlike a primary) being a voter's "second candidate of choice" can help a candidate.

When the voting is closed, a final head count is conducted, and each precinct apportions delegates to the county convention. These numbers are reported to the state party, which counts the total number of delegates for each candidate and reports the results to the media. Most of the participants go home, leaving a few to finish the business of the caucus: each preference group elects its delegates, and then the groups reconvene to elect local party officers and discuss the platform.

The delegates chosen by the precinct then go to a later caucus, the county convention, to choose delegates to the district convention and state convention. Most of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention are selected at the district convention, with the remaining ones selected at the state convention. Delegates to each level of convention are initially bound to support their chosen candidate but can later switch in a process very similar to what goes on at the precinct level; however, as major shifts in delegate support are rare, the media declares the candidate with the most delegates on the precinct caucus night the winner, and relatively little attention is paid to the later caucuses.

How to Caucus the right way (hint: for John Edwards)

This evening - Thursday, January 3rd - the eyes of the nation and the world will be on Iowa.

You are the guardians of what kind of president we're going to have, and your judgment may well decide the nomination. I have enormous respect for how seriously you take this important responsibility.

Over the past several months, Elizabeth and I have enjoyed the opportunity to visit with so many of you across the state - listening to you, answering your questions, and offering my ideas on how to change America. I've laid out specifics, and told you exactly where I stand, and who I'll fight for.

Now it's your turn. It's time for your voice to be heard.

I am asking you to caucus for me this evening.

I believe that tonight, beginning right here in Iowa, you're going to rise up. You're going to rise up and say, America is better than this. We're better than NAFTA, Katrina, and Guantanamo. We are a country that speaks out for those without a voice - that fights for what we believe in.

There's going to be a rising that begins here in Iowa because you know that when we stand up for 47 million Americans without health care, America rises.

When we stand up for 37 million people who live in poverty, America rises.

When we stand up for 35 million hungry last year, for 200,000 homeless veterans, America rises.

You have the power to decide whether we will continue to let corporate greed run our country, or whether we take a stand on behalf of working people and the voiceless. Whether we take a stand for our Constitution.

The future of America is in your hands.

And I promise you this - if you join me tonight, we will change this country. And the folks in Washington and on Wall Street will hear you loud and clear. They will know that their grip on power and money is coming loose. They will know that America is rising. And they will know that we're coming to take our country back.

I believe that you are going to rise up and that you are going to speak up. And I know that when we're finished, when this is over, when we have sent a wave of change across America, we're going to be able to look our children in the eye and say, we left you a better life than we had, we left America better than we found it, and it started in Iowa.

I ask you to join me in this cause, and to caucus for me this evening, because together, we will build One America that works for everyone.

Thank you for standing up.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: