The Iowa Caucus is today and the nation is watching. It’s a lot of attention for a relatively small part of the nation voting. Having grown up in New Hampshire, I know that kind of limelight well.
When I was a pretentious 11 year old, I wasn’t able to vote but nonetheless assumed I had the right to meet every candidate who was seeking their party’s nomination. When President Bill Clinton came through the state I remember being particularly annoyed that he just drove by and waved instead of talking with me.
I still haven’t let that one go.
There are a lot of concerns about the undue influence early voting states wield in the primary process. The fact that I got more face time with candidates as an elementary school pupil than most voters will get in a life time is problematic.
So, what’s up with the Iowa caucuses?
They're not a primary elections, like the ones that will happen shortly in my home state, but they still matter.
In each of Iowa’s 1,774 voting precincts, small groups of voters will gather. Each one of these precincts will choose delegates that are then sent to county-wide conventions. Those county conventions will then choose delegates that go to the statewide convention. The statewide convention then chooses delegates to send to the national party conventions.
While it is not as direct a process as a primary, it is a kind of democratic process that gets the decision-making process started in earnest for the state.
Below is a video explaining more from an interesting group called "Why Tuesday?" (Its aim is to get voting moved to the weekend.)
Please leave any other helpful resources in understanding the primary process in the comments section!
Tim King is Communications Director for Sojourners. Follow Tim on Twitter @TMKing.