This Caucus Race Will Determine America’s Future


A swarm of people congregate in a school gym, shuffling around until they reach the designated area for a candidate. Instead of voting on a ballot, people physically move around the room to vote for their preferred candidate. This is known as a caucus. Iowa’s caucus marks the first event in which votes are cast for the primary candidates. It was held on Monday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. 


Different caucus locations are known as precincts which include school gyms, libraries, churches, community centers, etc. In Iowa there are 1,678 precincts. Your caucus location is based on your address.  

What happens during a caucus? 

At the beginning of a caucus, representatives from campaigns give last-minute speeches to the people to convince them one last time before voting. Different areas of the room are assigned to different candidates, and attendees move around the room to the area of their top-choice candidate. This candidate is written on a card so that the state party has a backup in case there needs to be a recount.  

Each candidate requires a “viability threshold,” the support from at least 15 percent of the caucus-goers in the room. If this threshold is met, the supporters for this candidate are locked in and do not move for the rest of the event. Participants who are a part of a “non-viable” candidate, meaning that they did not receive at least 15 percent of the votes, participate in a process called realignment. They can either join a viable candidate’s group, convince others from non-viable groups to join their group hoping to hit the threshold, or join another non-viable candidate’s group. Oftentimes there are several rounds of realignment, but this year there was only one.  

How are the votes counted? 

Each precinct is assigned a certain number of delegates. These delegates are awarded proportionally to candidates based on the number of participants in each viable group after the realignment process. 

The state then calculates how many delegates are sent to the state conventions. The number of state convention delegates is important because it will determine how many of Iowa’s 41 total pledged national delegates are given to a candidate; national delegates will vote for the corresponding candidate at the Democratic National Convention in June. On a larger scale, a candidate needs 1,991 national delegates to win the nomination for their party. 

Whichever candidate has the highest number of state delegates wins the caucus.  

Why is Iowa’s caucus important? 

This caucus is particularly important because it gauges public support of the candidates. The winner’s campaign typically gains momentum following this caucus, heightening their popularity. In fact, according to CBS News, since 1976, seven of the nine presidential nominees have won the Iowa caucuses. This event essentially lays the foundation for the rest of the primary elections. 

What were the results? 

According to the state’s Democratic Party, a “reporting issue” caused “inconsistencies” in some data which led to a delay in the results being announced. The malfunction of a new app—intended to speed the process—instead hindered reporting results. 

However, this setback did not prevent candidates from giving optimistic statements—former Mayor Pete Buttigieg being a prime example. He declared, “By all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious,” even before results were reported. 

President Trump clearly won the Republican caucus, facing no significant challenger for the GOP nomination. 

So, who won? 

Most recent data indicate that Sen. Bernie Sanders won the popular vote with more than 2,000 more votes than Buttigieg, based on the second realignment. However, Buttigieg won more state convention delegates, with a total of 564 compared to Sanders’s 562. Sen. Elizabeth Warren followed in third with 387 delegates and former Vice President Joe Biden came in fourth with 341 delegates. 

As mentioned earlier, the number of state convention delegates determines the number of allocated national delegates. In terms of Iowa’s pledged national delegates, Buttigieg won 13 while Sanders won 12. Warren took home eight, Biden six, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar one delegate. Only 40 out of the 41 pledged delegates were distributed among candidates. 

What next? 

Following the Iowa caucus, candidates flew to New Hampshire for the democratic debate on Friday, Feb. 7. New Hampshire’s caucus was on Tuesday, Feb. 11 where a similar process took place. Other states that have caucuses as opposed to regular primary elections are Nevada, North Dakota, and Wyoming. 

As of Monday, Feb. 10, Sanders’s campaign plans to call for a partial recanvass of the results. This would require the vote count to be compared to paper records to ensure accuracy of the results. 

While the caucuses do not make or break a campaign, they certainly add momentum to a candidate’s campaign, ultimately paving the way for the presidential nomination.