A new feature on PB: â€œMike Snyder (aka SeaShantyIrish is a writer, researcher and Democratic political hack based in Seattle, Washington. In early 1988 he was a field organizer for presidential hopeful Paul Simon (the senator not the singer!) in Winneshiek Co, Iowa; Simon won the county but lost the state. For the 2004 campaign, Mike mapped the progress of John Kerryâ€™s Iowa field campaign. In 2008, Mike presided over his own precinct caucus in Seattle, where he personally voted for Barack Obama, who won the precinct, the city, the state and ultimately the White House.â€
The IOWA PRECINCT CAUCUSES: SOME QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Q1: When & where will the 2012 Iowa Republican precinct caucuses take place?
A1: Caucus meetings start 7PM CST local time (1AM UK time) on Tuesday, January 3, 2012 for each of Iowaâ€™s 1,746 voting precincts, in city halls, fire stations, schools, churches, homes, etc. in all 99 counties. (for list of meeting locations see)
Q2: Who is eligible to participate?
A2: Any precinct resident who is a registered Republican voter; eligible citizens age 18 or older may register to vote, update their registration address and/or change their party registration at the caucus, Also, 17-year-old citizen residents turning 18 by November 8, 2012 may participate if they publically affiliate with the GOP. There is no proxy or absentee voting; guests may observe but not participate.
Q3: Whatâ€™s the basic procedure for presidential voting?
Q3: A temporary chair(wo)man (usually one of the precinctâ€™s two Republican precinct committee officers) presides until a permanent chair (often the same person) is elected. Next order of business is the presidential vote, a straw poll conducted by secret, blank ballot (all votes are write-ins). Before the vote, participants representing candidates are allowed to give their pitches. Participants then write-in their presidential preference (one name only); ballots are then collected and counted by a committee appointed by the chair, and observed by candidate representatives.
Q4: How are the presidential straw poll results reported?
A4: Once a precinctâ€™s straw poll ballots have been counted and results announced to the caucus, the results are phoned in to the Iowa State Republican Party, using a special number dedicated for this purpose. At the state party, straw poll results will be aggregated for each county and statewide, and reported via the media and the Iowa GOP website.
Q5: Do the precinct caucuses do anything besides the presidential straw poll?
A 5: Yes. After the straw poll, the next order of business is the election of the precinctâ€™s delegates and alternates (numbers allocated based on the precinctâ€™s Republican vote in the 2008 general election) to county (or district) conventions, the next level of the process. This is much less publicized than the straw poll BUT is of huge importance to the candidates and their campaigns (see Q6). Following delegate/alternate elections, participants (those still remaining after the straw poll vote) elect the two precinct committee officers, then discuss and vote on policy proposals for inclusion in the party platform
Q6: Do straw poll results determine Iowaâ€™s delegation to the Republican National Convention?
A6: No. The straw poll is non-binding and has no (direct) significance for delegate selection. Instead, precinct delegates meet at county or district conventions (April 21), which elect delegates to the state convention (June 16), which in turn elects Iowaâ€™s delegation to the GOP national convention (August 27-30). Thus Iowa has both the earliest AND the latest delegate selection process in the nation.
Q7: What might gum up the works of this pretty straightforward process?
A7: Serious breakdowns in straw poll reporting are unlikely given the resources, experience and expertise Iowa GOPers bring to the process. HOWEVER, there is potential for controversy re: conduct of proceedings, counting of straw poll votes and/or election of county/district delegates. Four years ago in the Washington State Republican precinct caucuses, followers of Ron Paul alleged widespread bias and outright fraud against themselves and their candidate by local and state GOP officials, who were definitely NOT fans to put it most mildly (just as average Democratic activist isnâ€™t thrilled by Lyndon LaRouche et al. ) My guess is that Paulistas will be watching proceedings like hawks, and are able, willing and more than ready to cry foul IF there hero comes up short.