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iowa caucuses

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The first-in-the-nation 2020 Iowa Caucuses are neighborhood gatherings where Democrats meet to organize their precinct for the upcoming election, discuss the issues important to them, and declare their Presidential preference. Grassroots organizing is the most effective way to build the party bench and connect with voters, and the caucuses allow the IDP to do both at the same time. 


The 1,678 precinct caucuses across the state — administered by the Iowa Democratic Party in conjunction with County Democratic Parties — are also the organizational foundation of the IDP. 


In addition to electing delegates to the county convention, caucusgoers address key issues important to their communities, and elect local party leadership. There are an additional 87 satellite caucus locations around the world. 



Every registered Iowa Democrat can participate in the caucus. Iowans can register at their precinct caucus. Caucusgoers must be at least 18 years old by November 3, 2020. 


Any caucusgoer that finds themselves in need of an accommodation can submit a request on the Iowa Democratic Party’s website by January 27, 2020.


Press and observers are allowed to observe a caucus as long as they do not interfere with the business of the caucus. Members of the media who wish to cover/observe are encouraged to work with IDP staff prior to caucus night to ensure a successful evening.


Precinct caucus locations will open no later than 6:30 pm CST. Caucusgoers must be in line by 7 pm CST in order to enter the caucus meeting. Caucusgoers who arrive after 7:00 pm CST will not be allowed to caucus.


There are three main parts to the caucus:


  1. Introductory Business: During this time the caucus will elect the permanent chair and secretary, hear a message from the state party chair, hear from local elected officials, and if time allows hear from local candidates for office. 

  2. Presidential Preference: During this time you will determine viability, break into preference groups, and elect delegates to the County Convention. 

  3. Party Business: During this time you will elect members to the county central committee and discuss platform planks to the county convention.



Getting Started

  • The caucus chair will kick off the meeting with general party business, including a letter from IDP Chair Troy Price.


  • To determine the viability threshold for each preference group the Caucus Chair will count the room of caucugoers by passing out numbered Presidential Preference Cards to each caucusgoer. 


The viability threshold for most precincts is 15%, and can be higher in precincts electing less than 4 delegates on caucus night. 

      • 4+ delegates = 15% 

      • 3 delegates = 16.66%

      • 2 delegates = 25%


  • Each Precinct Chair will have an opportunity to make a brief speech in support of their candidate.


First Alignment

  • Eligible caucusgoers divide to form Presidential preference groups—simply by standing in a section of the room devoted to their candidate. The Caucus Chair and Precinct Captains count the caucusgoers in each group and agree on a final number for the first alignment. 


  • Support for viable preference is locked after the first alignment. Caucusgoers in viable preference groups will fill out the Presidential Preference Card, sign it, and turn it in. Those caucusgoers can choose to leave or observe the final alignment before participating in the Party Business portion of the caucus. 


Final Alignment

  • Caucusgoers in non-viable preference groups have the opportunity to realign for a final time. These caucusgoers can either: 


  • Join a viable group 

  • Earn support for their group or another non-viable group

  • Form an uncommitted or other group 


  • In the rare event of a second alignment with more viable preference groups than total electable delegates, the smallest group(s) would need to realign another time.


  • Before leaving, caucusgoers will fill out the Presidential Preference Card, sign it, and turn it in.


Delegate Allocation

  • Delegates are awarded to the final, viable preference groups based on their size. 

  • The formula to determine a viable preference groups’ delegate allocation is:


# of people in group X # delegates precinct is electing

# of caucus attendees


  • Caucus Chairs and Precinct Captains will calculate the delegate allocation for each group and match their counts before reporting the results to the IDP. 



The IDP does not declare a winner, the party’s role is to present results. The IDP encourages outlets to use the reported SDE number to determine a caucus winner. 


  1. First Alignment: Reflects total number of participants and initial support in that precinct caucus.

  2. Final Alignment: Reflects movement in the room and final voter count.

  3. SDE: State delegate equivalency is the projected number of state party convention delegates the candidates will receive based upon results of the precinct caucuses.

  4. National Convention Delegates allocation will be reported as part of the caucus results. That number can only be calculated upon receipt of all precinct caucus results and will be reported at that time.



  • The precinct delegates elected on caucus night will go to the County Convention on March 21, 2020.

  • State Delegate Equivalents (SDE) are calculated using a ratio of state to county convention delegates.

  • Delegates elected at the County Convention will go to the Congressional District Convention on April 25, 2020, and the State Convention on June 13, 2020.


  • At each Congressional District Convention, delegates will elect 27 District-Level National Delegates and 4 National Alternates.

    • CD 1: 7 delegates, 1 alternate

    • CD 2: 7 delegates, 1 alternate

    • CD 3: 8 delegates, 1 alternate

    • CD 4: 5 delegates, 1 alternate

  • At the State Convention, delegates will elect 9 At-Large National Delegates and 5 PLEO National Delegates.

    • Any Iowa Democrat can be elected as one of 36 pledged national delegates or 4 national alternate positions.

    • Iowa has an additional 5 pledged delegate positions open to Party Leaders and Elected Official (PLEOs). 

  • Caucus Precinct to National Delegate Path:

    • County Delegates: 11,402

    • District and State Delegates (SDE): 2,107

      • CD 1: 560

      • CD 2: 543

      • CD 3: 593

      • CD 4: 411

    • National: 49 (41 pledged, 8 automatic)




  • Precinct Caucus Chair: Leader of the caucus.


  • Precinct Caucus Secretary: Assists the precinct caucus chair with counting, distributing resources, and reporting results.


  • Precinct Captain: Campaign representative at each precinct. 


  • Presidential Preference Card: Two-sided card for each caucusgoer to record their preferences after alignment. Before leaving the caucus, Iowans will fill it out, sign it, and hand it in. The cards will be secured for record-keeping purposes. 


  • Preference Group: Group of a candidate’s supporters in the room.


  • Viability Threshold: Percentage of support in the room a candidate must have in order to become a viable preference group. 


  • Alignment: First alignment reflects total number of participants and initial support in that precinct caucus. Final alignment movement in the room and final voter count.


  • State Delegate Equivalent (SDE): The projected number of state party convention delegates the candidates will receive based upon results of the precinct caucuses.


  • PLEOs: Party Leaders and Elected Officials

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