How the Iowa Caucuses work

How the Iowa Caucuses work

MADISON, Wis (WMTV) – The first votes of the 2020 election will be cast Monday at the Iowa Caucuses. It is a voting system unlike the primary election system used in Wisconsin.

David Canon, a UW-Madison professor of political science, said the Iowa caucuses start a months-long process that ultimately leads to the selection of 41 delegates. Those delegates will go on to vote for a candidate at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee.

“In the Iowa caucus, the difference it, it’s not just going in to vote, it’s actually like a meeting,” Canon said.

He said caucuses happen at thousands of different locations across the state of Iowa, such as at school gyms, libraries and more. Once voters get into a room, they sort into groups based on which candidate they want.

“So finally you will get your different corners of the room where all the voters who support that candidate will be clumped together,” he said.

If a candidate has less than 15 percent of the votes, the candidate is not viable. Voters who chose a candidate with less than 15 percent have a few options: give up and go home, convince other voters to join their candidate to make it to 15 percent, or join a viable candidate.

“On election night they will report three things. They will report that first round total of how many people were in the groups initially, how people in the groups after that second round, and then how many state delegate equivalents is what they call it- will be projected to show up at the final state convention at the end of this process. They are the ones who then decide how many go to Milwaukee for the national convention,” Canon said.

After voters finish re-aligning, a number of delegates are chosen based off how many votes each candidate gets.

“The idea is pretty straight forward: just gauging the support in the state that will then be translated to those delegates that go on to the national convention,” Canon said.

Caucuses are also differ from primaries in that they start at 7 p.m. This year there will also be satellite locations outside of Iowa to caucus, such as at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

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