The Iowa Caucuses are tonight. These precinct-level meetings are national news every four years when participants make their presidential picks, but Iowa’s two major political parties hold Caucuses in every election year.
The leaders of both parties say they expect newly-engaged people to show up tonight.
“There’s a lot of energy out there,” Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price says. “and then, on top of that, with the crowded primaries we have in some of our congressional races and our gubernatorial race, you know there’s interest in the caucuses because this is the first step to electing delegates to our state convention.”
If none of the Democratic candidates running for governor win 35 percent of the vote in June’s primary, the party’s nominee will be selected by delegates at the state convention. Iowa Republican Party chairman Jeff Kaufmann expects some of the first-time GOP voters who cast ballots for Trump in 2016 to show up at the Republican caucuses tonight.
“People that go to these caucuses can expect, if they have something to say about an issue, they’re going to have a chance to say it. They’re going to have a chance to talk about it and discuss it. There’s going to be back and forth,” Kaufmann says. “I mean, it really is a true conversation.”
These philosphical debates are the opening round in development of the party’s platform — the document that outlines the policies each party formally embraces.
“Caucuses are the best way to give the grassroots a chance to speak,” Kaufmann says.
Price says there’s one other wrinkle in the Democratic Party’s process that could play out tonight. Participants at each caucus site have the option of splitting into “preference groups” related to candidats in a specific race — like the contest for governor — or on issue that’s dividing the group to see where the majority lies.
“We’ve been training and making sure our folks know that process,” Price says “so that’s going to be something to watch for.”
Participants in tonight’s caucuses may find themselves being asked to sign petitions, too. Candidates are required to collect a specific number of signatures on nominating petitions in order to have their names printed on the June primary ballots.
Find Iowa Democratic Party caucus sites here.
Find Iowa Republican Party caucus sites here.
Both parties plan to start the caucus meetings at 7 p.m.