A Brief Guide to Tonight's Iowa Republican Caucuses
If you followed Iowa's Democratic caucuses in 2008, you probably recall a cacophonous process that included thing like meeting a 15% viability threshold, people going off and standing in corners based on the candidates they supported, and horse-trading between rival groups. (Secret ballot, not so much.) Fortunately, the procedures for tonight's Republican presidential caucuses are much, much simpler.Here's how it works
• All caucus participants arrive at their precincts where they will sign in at the door upon arrival. Caucuses will begin at 7:00PM CT.
• The caucus meetings begin with the pledge of allegiance. A caucus chair and secretary will be elected by the body to run the meeting and take notes.
• After the chair and secretary are elected, candidate representatives from each campaign are given time to speak on behalf of their candidate.
• Once the speakers have finished, sheets of paper are be passed out to every registered Iowa Republican from the precinct. Voters then write down their candidate preference.
• All votes are then collected.
• Every vote is counted. The caucus chair and secretary will count the votes in front of the caucus and a representative from each campaign is allowed to observe the counting of the votes. The results are recorded on an official form provided by the Republican Party of Iowa and are announced to the caucus.
• A caucus reporter is chosen to report the results to the Republican Party of Iowa, accompanied by campaign representatives to verify the results reported to Iowa GOP officials.
• RPI officials do not count results; they aggregate them from around the state and report them to the media. To ensure consistency in reporting, campaign representatives have the opportunity to be present with RPI officials as votes are reported to the public.
One important note: While only registered Republicans may participate in the caucuses, all registered voters—including independents and Democrats—may switch their party affiliation on election day and vote in the GOP caucuses.
News media organizations will conduct an entrance poll, which, if 2008 is a guide, will likely get released not long after the caucuses begin. (An entrance poll is the equivalent of the familiar exit poll, except that caucus-goers are buttonholed by survey-takers as they walk into their voting locations, rather than as they're leaving.) And again, if the pattern from four years ago holds, the RPI will probably release final results around an hour after the caucuses start—though things might conceivably be delayed a bit because Republicans have said they'll tabulate the vote at an "undisclosed location."
After the Republican Party reports the results from these 1,774 precinct-level caucuses, delegates are selected to proceed on to county-level conventions, and after that, a statewide convention, which chooses delegates for the Republican National Convention. But the media narrative for the ensuing primaries will be set by what happens on Tuesday night. Needless to say, we'll be following the results closely, so be sure to come back at 7pm Central / 8pm Eastern tonight for our complete liveblog coverage of the election.