Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Iowa Caucus Process and It's New Importance For Republicans

The Iowa caucuses are an electoral event in which residents of the U.S. state of Iowa meet in precinct caucuses in all of Iowa's 1,682 precincts and elect delegates to the corresponding county conventions. 
There are 99 counties in Iowa, and thus there are 99 conventions. These county conventions then select delegates for both Iowa'sCongressional District Convention and the State Convention, which eventually choose the delegates for the presidential nominating conventions.
The Iowa caucuses are noteworthy for the amount of media attention they receive during U.S. presidential election years. Since 1972, the Iowa caucuses have been the first major electoral event of the nominating process for President of the United States. Although only about 1% of the nation's delegates are chosen by the Iowa State Convention (25 Republican delegates in 2012, assigned proportionately), the Iowa caucuses have served as an early indication of which candidates for president might win the nomination of their political party at that party's national convention, and which ones could drop out for lack of support.
Both Democratic and Republican Caucuses will be held on February 1, 2016.[1]
The Iowa caucuses operate very differently from the more common primary election used by most other states (see U.S. presidential primary). The caucuses are generally defined as "gatherings of neighbors." Rather than going to polls and casting ballots, Iowans gather at a set location in each of Iowa's 1,682 precincts. Typically, these meetings occur in schools, churches, public libraries and even individuals' houses. The caucuses are held every two years, but the ones that receive national attention are the presidential preference caucuses held every four years. In addition to the voting and the presidential preference choices, caucus-goers begin the process of writing their parties’ platforms by introducing resolutions.[2]
Unlike the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire, the Iowa caucus does not result directly in national delegates for each candidate. Instead, caucus-goers elect delegates to county conventions, who in turn elect delegates to district and state conventions where Iowa's national convention delegates are selected. Ironically, the state conventions do not take place until the end of the primary and caucus season: Iowa is in fact one of the very last states to choose its delegates.[3]
The Republicans and Democrats each hold their own set of caucuses subject to their own particular rules that change from time to time. Participants in each party's caucuses must be registered with that party. Participants can change their registration at the caucus location. Additionally, 17-year-olds can participate, as long as they will be 18 years old by the date of the general election. Observers are allowed to attend, as long as they do not become actively involved in the debate and voting process. For example, members of the media and campaign staff and volunteers attend many of the precinct caucuses. Youth who will not be eligible to vote by the date of the general election may also attend as observers and may volunteer to attend the county convention as youth delegates.[4]

Republican Party process

For the Republicans, the Iowa caucuses previously followed (and should not be confused with) the Iowa Straw Poll in August of the preceding year. Out of the six Straw Poll iterations, the winner of the Straw Poll failed to win the Iowa caucuses three times, in 1987, 2007, and 2011. In June 2015 the party announced that the Straw Poll would no longer take place.
The process of selecting Iowa delegates to the Republican National Convention prior to the 2016 election cycle started with selection of delegates to the county conventions, which in turn affected the delegates elected to district conventions who also served as delegates to the state convention where delegates were chosen for the national convention.
This process rewarded candidate organizers who not only got supporters to the caucus sites but also got supporters willing to serve as delegates to county conventions and willing to vote for other delegates who supported a specific candidate. In 2012, this process resulted in Ron Paul supporters dominating the Iowa delegation to the Republican National Convention, having 22 of the 28 Iowa delegates, with Mitt Romney getting the other six delegates.
Because the delegates elected at the caucuses did not need to declare a candidate preference, the media did not have an objective way to determine the success of individual candidates at the caucuses. The media focused on the secret ballot polling conducted at the caucus sites and have generally referred to this non-binding poll as the caucus. There were irregularities in the 2012 caucus site polling results, including the fact that eight precinct results went missing and were never counted.
Because of the irregularities in the process and the fact that the totals reported to the media were unrelated to the delegate selection process, there have been changes in both how the caucus site secret ballot polling is sent to state party headquarters and in how Iowa delegates to the national convention are required to vote.
Starting in 2016, the caucus site voting that was previously a non-binding poll becomes the binding method of selecting delegates.[5]Acting in accordance with a mandate from the Republican National Committee, the delegates are bound to vote for candidates in proportion to the votes cast for each candidate at the caucus sites.
Charlie Szold, communications director for the Republican Party of Iowa, said, “We have partnered with Microsoft and they have built us a special app that allows our precinct captains to report data quickly. They can do that right there on their smart phones or tablets or computers and they can do it very accurately because you can see the number you are typing in."
He added that at the central collection point there will be special algorithms to flag any data that doesn’t match up to expectations, so unusual numbers will generate contact with the precinct for confirmation or correction.
Szold said, “The results will be made available almost in real time. The results will come to us. They will go through that internal check I was talking about and then they will be published on a public website with a map view of Iowa. You will be able to see results at the precinct level.”[6]

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