We’re in Iowa for the pivotal first election in the 2020 presidential race. We’ll be streaming here all night with real-time results, speeches from the major candidates, and live-streams from inside several of Iowa’s 1,600 caucuses, where voters gather to convince and cajole each other to support their favored candidates. The past 6 winners of Iowa’s Democratic caucus have gone on to represent the party in the general election.
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In US news and current events today, the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries officially kick off with the Iowa caucuses. Although the caucuses are more involved than the straightforward balloted primaries, they play a big part in deciding on a candidate.
The Iowa caucuses take place at more than 1,600 precinct locations around the state. These caucuses determine how many national party convention delegates are allocated to each candidate. Any Iowans registered in their party, and who will be 18 years old by Election Day, are eligible to participate in the caucuses. This is the first year that 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by November will be able to participate, based on changes that Iowa made last year. Once voters head to their precinct location, the caucus chairs will start the proceedings.
How Does a Caucus Work? Participants physically stand in a group designated for a candidate. Any candidate with at least 15% of the votes is considered “viable” and awarded delegates — and voters that chose a viable candidate are then locked into their vote.
Supporters for non-viable candidates can then decide to join a viable group or a group that needs more members to be viable — or they can try to convince others to join their group to make it viable. They can also just stick with their group as is. In this round, campaign representatives will likely be around to convince participants to support a certain candidate. Candidates have tried to strategize with one another in the past to advance in different grouping rounds — a strategy 2020 candidates are also using.
Though there have historically been more “alignment” rounds, or rounds where participants can decide to move to support a different candidate at Iowa caucuses in the past, this year will only have two.
Candidates will also be able to report the results of both the two rounds to try to improve their numbers in the second round. This is a key difference this year. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where the winner of the first round ends up in second place in the final tally — which could have people raising inaccurate theories if they don’t understand why.
Though caucuses may be more costly and involved than simple primary votes, some states, including Iowa, continue to use them, saying it allows space to discuss each candidate.
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