Iowa Matters. For a Day. Every 4 Years.

Iowa Matters. For a Day. Every 4 Years.

Tonight in Iowa, citizens will gather in hundreds of little groups to determine which Presidential candidate they would prefer as a drinking buddy (note: Trump doesn’t drink). The Iowa Caucus process has not changed much over the years except for the inclusion of computers, womenfolk, and voters with dark complexions (if the latter can be found in Iowa).

The caucus process is simple: At 7 PM Central Time, adult Iowa citizens show up at the church basement, roller rink, farmhouse, or pork-packing plant designated as the local caucus site by state Republican and Democratic parties. Republican attendees display their GOP tattoos at the door; those without them must get marked-up before Monday night. Candidate adherents rant, threaten, and cajole. For Republicans, secret balloting follows, then local caucus hosts have their grandchildren use laptop computers to enter the voting results, which are transmitted through the cloud to Iowa GOP Central Command, located in an empty grain elevator at an undisclosed location in Sioux County.

Iowa Democrats use a different system. At every local caucus they huddle in groups backing each candidate. Any group with less than 15 members is deemed “non-viable” and dissolved, and its members scatter to back other candidates. When the music stops the biggest group wins, but only the jammers can score. Caucus hosts enter results into a Microsoft program; after it freezes up, they re-boot their laptops and re-enter the data, which is collated in the cloud and certified at Iowa Democratic Party HQ, i.e. a Starbucks in the East Village neighborhood of Des Moines (free WiFi!).

After precinct caucuses finally end, winners of each party caucus are confirmed and announced, runners-up are crowned Miss Popularity, and losers and their surrogates begin the arduous spin cycle. In November the names of the caucus winners are put on the Iowa ballot  and voters elect someone else as President.

God Bless America.


“How The Iowa Democratic Caucus Works, Featuring Legos,” Taylor Dobbs and Angela Evancie, Vermont Public Radio

“Why do the Iowa caucuses matter? Because everyone thinks they do.”Andrew Prokop, Vox


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Image by Mike Licht (who knows those are Okies). Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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