Understanding The Convoluted Iowa Caucuses Through 9 Silly GIFs

Today your social media feeds have been filled with folks in support of their favorite presidential candidate in hopes of bolstering their voter turnout in the great state of Iowa. That’s because today is the super important Iowa Caucus.

I have been told to stop giggling every time I say the word “caucus.”

The all-important “first vote” of the 2016 US presidential election is the first primary used to help determine who each political party’s nominee will be. If you are new to politics, you may be totally floored to discover that this process in Iowa is not as simple and straight forward as a one person/one vote situation. Come to think of it, it is actually pretty convoluted for such an important part of our democracy. That is why I am using silly internet GIFS to help illustrate the process!

1. The Republicans And Democrats Do It Differently

Republicans have more of a “traditional” voting process where each voter gets one vote.

Both Registered Republicans and Democrats report to a voting location by party where they get to hear one last sales pitch and stump speech from a representative from each campaign.

2. You Have To Show Up At A Specific Time (7PM) – If They Have Shut The Door You Can’t Vote!

Unlike the regular Election Day, you can’t just go in and vote whenever you feel like. Caucus meetings are at a specific time and you have to be in line before 7PM or else they shut the door right in your face!

3. When The Caucus Meeting Starts Supporters Must Publically Declare Their Preference For A Candidate

To kick things off, after hearing the sales pitch and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, voters say who they are voting for.

4. Supporters For Each Democratic Candidate Literally Take Sides In A Room

Sort of like a middle school dance with boys on one side and girls on the other, but each side is supporting a candidate for president; voters physically stake out spots around the meeting room.  This analogy is pretty accurate considering many of these caucus meetings take place in an actual middle school gymnasium! Or maybe it is more like Moses parting the Red Sea, but with voters.

5. For Any Candidate That Does Not Have 15 Percent Of The Vote In Each Precinct, Their Supporters Must Give Their Vote To Another Candidate.

This is probably the most mind blowing part of the process for the Democrats: in each precinct meeting if your candidate does not get at least 15 percent of the vote, you have to give your vote to another “viable” candidate! The votes are then re-tallied for the remaining candidates. What!?

6. There Is No Secret Ballot

To make this even more bizarre, unlike the traditional election day where you cast your vote behind a curtain, the caucus vote is all out in the open. Voters have to publically state who they're voting for in front of the whole community of people attending the caucus meeting. Say you go to the meeting and your boss is there who is a huge Clinton fan, and you are Feeling The Bern, what do you do?

7.  Once They Have A Final Vote Count From Each Precinct They Decide How Many Delegates Each Candidate Gets To Send To The County And Then National Convention.

All of this voting is really just to decide how many delegates the candidate gets for the party nomination convention. Each candidate hopes to shove as much as they can in their mouth and walk away still standing strong.

8. You Can Register To Vote The Night Of The Caucus

One cool thing about the Caucus is that if you want to show up and vote, but aren’t registered, you can actually do so on the day-of. As long as you register for the political party’s caucus you are voting for.

9.  Only About 20 Percent Of Registered Party Voters Show Up

Because of all of the above shenanigans, many Iowans find it difficult to get out and participate in their party’s caucus. While there were half a million registered Democrats in 2004, only 124K came to caucus that year.

While having a Dr. Seuss style process to nominating a presidential candidate may be weird and entertaining, many critics point out how this could be viewed as less than democratic. This is especially concerning as Iowa has a disproportionate influence on the election with subsequent voters in other states potentially rallying behind the winner of Iowa.

Follow Phil Haney on Twitter @PhilHaney

Source: CNN