Iowa Republican precinct caucuses: The nitty-gritty details

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The presidential straw poll that will get most of the attention at Thursday night's Iowa precinct caucuses is only a small part of the business that Republican voters will conduct. On the home page of the Polk County Republican Party website, chairman Ted Sporer outlines what will happen at caucus meetings on January 3. Since it is on the homepage, and therefore likely to be replaced with something new after Thursday night, I'm taking the liberty of putting the entire text here.

Season's Greetings.

We have seen months of candidates campaigning here in Iowa with ads on the television surveys over the phone, and literature in the mailbox. Finally the caucus season is upon us! The race is fluid and Republicans are ready to pick their nominee. All eyes are upon Iowa Caucuses, the First in the Nation, on January 3, 2008.

Thank you for visiting our site. As hard as it seems to believe, the 2008 Caucuses are almost upon us. The Republican Party will caucus on January 3, 2008 at 7:00 o'clock, p.m. The Democrats are convening at 6:30 so please disregard any information that you might have seen or heard that our caucuses are at the same time, they're not.

With so much at stake and so much Republican interest in each of our candidates we expect a large turnout. You should try and arrive early, around 6:30. Most of the larger precincts will have more than one check in lines but delay is always possible. We are also sharing some facilities with the Democrats and we want to allow everyone time to get organized and to participate.

You must be a registered Republican who is at least seventeen and one half years of age to participate. You may only caucus in the precinct in which you are registered to vote. You can register as a Republican at your precinct caucus-voter registration forms will be available. However, you can only be registered in one place at a time so a new registration form on caucus night will void any earlier form. Please remember, completing a fraudulent voting registration is a crime.

The Presidential Straw Poll is only one of the many items of business that will be conducted at your caucus. You will also elect:

Two members of the Polk County Central Committee. Central committee members form the backbone of our volunteer force. The term of office is two years. Central committee membership has nothing to do with your support for a Presidential candidate. As a central committee member you will be asked to serve on a subcommittee and to provide service to the party at events and for political projects such as our vote by mail program.

Delegates to the county convention. Each precinct has an allocated number of delegates, ranging from a low of 1 to a high of 33. The CountyConvention is March 8 at West Des Moines Valley High School. The gavel falls at 10:00 a.m. Delegates at the County convention will elect a smaller group of delegates to the Third Congressional District (April 26 in Grinnell) and State Conventions (June 13-14 in Des Moines).

Alternates. Each precinct elects alternate delegates who will represent that precinct at the County convention if the elected delegates cannot serve.

Junior Delegates. Each precinct will also select junior delegates to the County Convention. Junior delegates are those interested young Republicans who will not be old enough to vote in the November 2008 general election.

Platform Convention Delegates. Each committee will elect one person to represent that precinct at the Platform Convention. The platform convention is January 19 at Valley Southwoods in West Des Moines.

We have included information about the Polk County Caucuses on our website. Please check each of the three links to the right for more information.

Thanks again for visiting our website. Victory in 2008 begins with the Iowa caucuses. Please feel free to contact us with any remaining questions.

Ted Sporer

Polk County Chair

Other links on the site list the locations of each of the 183 precinct meetings (mostly in school classrooms) and set out the order of business. (The order of business seems to have been put together by a pro-life group. On the item for electing delegates to the county convention, it states, "It is perfectly proper to ask anyone running where they stand on the right to life issue." And on the next item, "Discussion of Platform Issues," it states, "It is at this time that you will want to submit the Pro-life Resolution so that it can be voted on.")

The process will be slightly different in smaller counties. Russ from Winterset describes the process in Madison County:

Madison County's got somewhere around 17,000 people (accoring to the 2000 census), and my contact is thinking that this year will be an overflow crowd like '88. Our countywide caucus will be held at the Winterset High School auditorium, with the individual precincts breaking down & voting in classrooms after the joint presentations, and a crowd of more than 800 or so will mean it's "standing room only". Assuming that the county's 50-50 split between the two parties (Iowa's teetered between the parties lately, so that's probably a fair cop, if you count affiliated voters only), that means that a 10% turnout will give us somewhere around 600 people (assuming 1/3 of voters are Rep, Dem and Ind).

At the beginning of this post I referred to the presidential straw poll. For Republicans, at least, the vote that will be taken at these caucuses is completely non-binding. The allocation of delegates to presidential candidates won't happen until the state Republican convention in June. (See the Green Papers entry on Iowa Republicans for details of the process.)

The process for Iowa Democrats is different: Precincts will pick delegates to their county conventions based on presidential preference, but delegates to the national convention won't be chosen until the state convention in June, and only then will it be known with any certainty how many delegates are pledged to each candidate.

For both parties, any attempt to allocate Iowa's delegates to candidates prior to June will almost certainly be incorrect.

The Iowa caucuses aren't that different from the way delegate selection was handled in Oklahoma prior to the establishment of a presidential preference primary in 1988. If memory serves, Oklahoma's Republican caucuses were often held before Iowa or New Hampshire. We just didn't market them as well.

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David V Author Profile Page said:

Michael said;

  "The Iowa caucuses aren't that different from the way delegate selection was handled in Oklahoma prior to the establishment of a presidential preference primary in 1988. If memory serves, Oklahoma's Republican caucuses were often held before Iowa or New Hampshire. We just didn't market them as well...."

I was a democrat in the '84 Oklahoma caucus. (It was because I was a week too late to register as a Republican).
It was around the same time as Iowa's then and I tried to form an "Uncommitted delegation". I lacked the 20% threshold required, so I negotiated to become an alternate for the Jesse Jackson delegation. I then replaced the absent delegate as one of 2 non-black Jackson delegates. Jackson lacked the 20% threshold to send delegates to the state convention.

I almost got beat up by some union thugs at the Tulsa County Democrat Convention because near the end of the event I created and carried a sign that read;

"Democrats For Reagan"

Yep, I was a "DINO".

That's great, David! Thanks for sharing your memories.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 1, 2008 11:34 PM.

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