Yepsen_2007_Iowa_Caucus_Q_and_A -

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December 18, 2007 Caucus history: Frequently asked questions DAVID YEPSEN REGISTER POLITICS COLUMNIST What is a caucus? It's a gathering of neighbors. A caucus is different than a primary or a general election. In a general election, Iowans go to the polls to elect people to public office. In a primary, Republicans and Democrats go to the polls to nominate candidates for office. At a caucus, party activists go to a meeting where they start the process of nominating presidential candidates by expressing an initial preference for a candidate. Any registered Democrat or Republican can be a party activist and attend a caucus. In Iowa, caucus-goers elect delegates to county conventions, who, in turn, elect delegates to district and state conventions where national convention delegates are selected. That makes these meetings of local party leaders and activists an important first step in picking presidents. In fact, the word "caucus" is believed to be an American Indian term that means "a meeting of tribal leaders." Who is a tribal leader? You can be. What happens at a caucus? Caucuses are held by both the Republican and Democratic parties every two years. Neighbors gather to talk about local politics, discuss what they want to see in the party platform and elect people to the party's county central committee, which governs local party affairs. They also elect delegates to the county conventions in the spring. In a presidential year, caucus participants also express a preference for presidential nominees. Those preferences are the first in the nation and are much-watched by national observers and political leaders for how well or poorly candidates are doing with grassroots Americans. Where are they held? There are some 2,000 precincts in Iowa. Most of them will have caucuses though some rural areas are so small they combine with other precincts or townships. You won't have to travel very far. The meetings are generally held in a school, library, community center, church basement or some other public building. Years ago, they were held at people's homes, but they've grown so big that both parties try to find sites that are larger and more accessible. To find where your caucus is, call the county auditor's office at the county courthouse in the days
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Yepsen_2007_Iowa_Caucus_Q_and_A -

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