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How the Iowa caucuses work

January 3, 2012
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Time: Caucusgoers gather at about 1,770 sites across the state at 8 p.m. Eastern time. Results begin coming in within an hour.

Process: Caucusgoers can wait until the day of the caucuses to register. After electing a caucus chair and a secretary, voters hear five-minute pitches from representatives of each candidate. This is where candidates with a strong organization, such as Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, have an advantage; some candidates may not be able to field 1,700-plus volunteers. After the presentations, a secret ballot vote is held. Many leave at this point while those who remain elect delegates to county conventions and discuss issues for the party platform.

What is at stake: Twenty-eight delegates are slated to be seated at the national convention in Florida this summer. Today’s vote, however, is nonbinding, essentially taking the temperature of voters at this particular moment. Twenty-five of the delegates will be decided in votes at the state convention in June; the state chair, national committeeman, and national committeewoman each choose one delegate. Today’s vote carries significant symbolic value and often leads to a paring of the field.

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