No matter who’s still lined up in the cold to get in, the doors to caucus sites—1,681 Republican, and 1,681 Democratic—across the state of Iowa will close at 7 PM on Monday, February 1. Thus begins an evening of participatory democracy quite unlike the casting of a simple ballot.
The process differs for each party, but in both cases, says Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer, “a caucus is a commitment of time.” And Iowans take it seriously. “It is something you don’t do for laughs—it’s a meaningful commitment of time, energy, and, in some cases, your soul,” says Selzer.
Here’s how it works for each party.
1. Candidate representatives give speeches.