Iowa Caucus

The Democratic and GOP caucus systems in Iowa are different. In the Democratic caucus system, registered voters don’t just go to their designated polling place and, well, vote. Instead, they attend public meetings, usually held in school gyms, churches and public libraries, and even restaurants and fire stations, to choose their presidential nominee by standing in a section of the room devoted to their candidate. If a preference group doesn’t get enough people to be considered “viable,” (usually 15 percent of attendees), caucus-goers can join another group, or try to convince people to join their group, in order to reach the 15 percent goal. Delegates are awarded to the final viable preference groups based on their sizes.

For the 2020 Iowa caucus, the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) made the most historic changes to the process since it was first established in 1972. For the first time, registered Iowa Democrats will be able to participate through six “virtual caucuses” via phone or smart device. They will rank up to five choices for president and the total result of the six virtual caucuses will account for 10 percent of Iowa’s caucus delegates.

“The Iowa Democratic Party has always sought ways to improve our caucus process, and today, we are setting the stage for the 2020 Iowa caucuses to be the most accessible, transparent, and successful caucuses in our party’s history,” Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price said in a press statement. “While we will always continue to improve the caucus process, I am confident that with these historic changes, we are giving more Iowans a way to participate in the caucuses, we are increasing transparency and trust, and we are streamlining our process.”

The GOP caucus process in Iowa is much simpler. Caucus-goers simply cast a vote for their candidate for president and the delegates are divide proportionally at the Republican National Convention.