Democrats and Republicans caucus the same night in Iowa, but there are plenty of differences between how they carry out their party’s caucus activity.
In both cases, you can caucus if you’re eligible to vote in the state of Iowa and you will be at least 18 years old on Election Day, November 8, 2016. You must register with your party, which can be done at the caucus location, and you can change your party affiliation at your caucus location. You must go to the caucus location for your precinct, and caucus locations are not the same as polling locations.
In addition to casting support for presidential candidates, caucus-goers may make some related delegate and party platform decisions.
For Republicans, caucus-goers cast a ballot to indicate their preferred candidate. The votes are counted by the caucus chair and the winner is announced. There is no minimum, or “viability,” requirement, so every vote is counted and the winner is the candidate that received the most votes.
For more information about the Republican party’s caucus in Iowa, click here.
For Democrats, caucus-goers physically stand in an area of the room that correlates with their desired candidate – this is called aligning. During a 30-minute alignment period, people work the room to try to convince others to support their candidate. Candidates must achieve a minimum percentage of the caucus-goers at their location for their support to be deemed viable. That viability threshold is set at the beginning of the night, and is often about 15%. If your candidate isn’t deemed viable, you can either join another candidate’s group or try to obtain enough supporters at your caucus to make your candidate viable. Delegates are distributed based on the relative strength of each viable candidate.
For more information about the Democratic party’s caucus in Iowa, click here.