Even if turnout far exceeds projections, only a small percentage of Iowa’s 3 million residents will participate in the event that plays an outsized role in determining which Republican candidate will face off against President Obama in November — and possibly lead more than 300 million Americans over the next four years.
Despite the national media saturation, the process by which the Iowa caucuses are run can seem incomprehensible even to politically attuned outsiders, and it is rarely explained in detail.
But some quintessential Iowa quirks notwithstanding, the Republican caucuses are rather straightforward.
Iowans who wish to participate on Jan. 3 must first find the voting site of their local precinct. The venues tend to change every four years, so even longtime caucus-goers are advised to double-check with one of the campaigns, the Iowa Republican Party website, or their local newspaper.
There are 1,774 precincts in this year’s caucuses, and many of the state’s rural outposts will see just a trickle of participants. On the other hand, some of the more populous counties combine their precincts into one location, which means that thousands of caucus-goers will gather at a single location.
Blackhawk County, for instance, is holding this year’s caucuses at the UNI-Dome, where the University of Northern Iowa football team plays its home games.
The gatherings are run entirely by the state Republican Party, which will deliver to each precinct a list of registered Republicans as of Nov. 14.
Once people start arriving at their caucus sites, they will be checked in and directed to their seats if they are already registered with the party. Non-Republican voters are allowed to register on site with the GOP upon providing a driver’s license or other photo ID with proof of residency and will be added instantly to the party’s registration rolls and can participate that night.