IOWA CAUCUS 2016: Nomination process begins precinct by precinct

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
FILE PHOTO / Republicans had a lively caucus season four years ago, with Sen. Rick Santorum eventually winning the event. Democrats focused on platform issues due to President Obama's decision to seek another term.

Outsiders and newcomers be aware.

The Iowa Caucuses are not an election.

For starters, they're on Monday, not Tuesday.

"The actual parties are the administrators of the caucus," Dickinson County Auditor Lori Pedersen said. In Dickinson County, that means Republican Chair Mike Koenecke and Democrat Chair Denny Perry have a grasp of the details.

"I will 'add' without over stepping my bounds that the office has witnessed a lot of interest in the caucus by the residents of the county," Pedersen said.

Koenecke and Perry offered advice for Dickinson County residents experiencing the caucuses for the first time.



Q: Who is running?

Candidates are former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Q: Where should I be?

Democrats will caucus Monday, Feb. 1, at the Spirit Lake Community Rooms in the Dickinson County Expo Center.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and party activists must be in line to register by 7 p.m. to participate. Don't be late -- local Democrats will have someone outside with an "end of the line" sign when the 7 p.m. hour arrives.

Q: I'm not registered with a major party. Can I still participate?

Yes -- "If they're not a registered Democrat or a registered Republican they'd have to become registered that night," Perry said. "They can do that right there are the table."

Q: Is Secretary Clinton going to be there? Or Senator Sanders?

Probably not, but most candidates drafted letters and have supporters on hand who can speak on their behalf. Dickinson County Democrats will then divide into one of 15 precincts to elect permanent officers, including a chairperson and a secretary. Those two people run the precinct.

Q: So when do we get to start picking the nominee?

The state Democratic Party determines how many delegates each precinct gets. All of Iowa's 1,681 precincts will then use a formula to determine who leaves Iowa with the most delegates at the national convention.

"We have to break into preference groups in each precinct," Perry said. "People will know ahead of time how many delegates each precinct gets," Perry said.

Q: Candidates need to be viable? What does that mean?

A formula is applied to determine whether any or all three Democrat candidates are viable in each precinct. In a precinct that elects four delegates or more, a candidate must have 15 percent support.

"The three preference groups we have are, of course, Clinton, Sanders and O'Malley," Perry said. "If they are not viable -- let's say O'Malley does not have enough people -- they have a chance to realign."

The preference group members can migrate to another candidate or remain uncommitted as part of the process. Delegates then advance to the county convention.

Q: Is that it?

No. "We have some central committee people to elect and some platform people to elect -- which is minor," Perry said.

County Democrats will then debate resolutions that may shape the party's platform.

Q: When do we find out who won in Dickinson County?

It should take less than an hour for each of Dickinson County's 15 precincts to decide delegates among the three candidates. Perry checks with each precinct before results are sent to the state party so he'll have a good grasp of the countywide numbers.

"I might be able to get that breakdown because, while they're talking about the resolutions, I'm going to go around and make sure they've got it all figured correctly before they phone it in," Perry said.



Q: Who is running?

There are many (for now), so let's sort them into groups.

The former or current U.S. Senators are Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

The former or current governors are Jeb Bush of Florida, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Jim Gilmore of Virginia, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, and John Kasich of Ohio.

The private-sector candidates are Ben Carson of Maryland, Carly Fiorina of California and Donald Trump of New York.

Q: Where should I be?

Doors will open at 5 p.m. and Republicans will caucus at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, at the Expo Building on the Dickinson County Fairgrounds. Don't be alarmed if you see Bernie Sanders stickers in the parking lot -- Democrats will be caucusing nearby.

"When they come in, there will be maps of the county, to find out which of the precincts you go to," Koenecke said. "Once you know which precinct you are, then you can go and sign in at the table."

Q: I'm not registered with a major party. Can I still participate?

Yes. Democrats and independent voters can register as Republicans on the night of the caucus. "To be there for the meeting, you have to change your designation of party," Koenecke said. "You have to be a registered Republican to caucus."

A photo ID may be required. Also helpful is a bill with your address will confirm your eligibility as a Dickinson County resident.

Q: Will Donald Trump personally try to woo me as a delegate?

Don't expect to see him in Spirit Lake. Candidates usually line up supporters who will try to make their case. Each candidate gets two minutes to speak. "It will be just one for each candidate," Koenecke said. "After that's done, we have a straw poll."

Q: Straw poll? What about viable groups and 15 percent stuff? And realigning?

That's the other folks. See above. Republicans select their candidate using a ballot.

Q: Is that it?

No. After the straw poll "people will probably work on the party platform, which is basically ideas people would like to see ... what they stand for. What they're behind," Koenecke said.

Any platform drafts will advance to the county convention. State and national conventions follow.

When do we find out who won in Dickinson County?

Koenecke thinks the voting will start between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Republican Party of Iowa will continuously tabulate straw poll results Monday night.

Because of some changes, it may be faster to find out the Dickinson County results online, but Koenecke thinks the totals will be available for Republicans before they leave the caucus site as well.

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