Iowa State U. Students Get Caucus Primer

This story was written by Monica Kiley, Iowa State Daily
Caucusing in Iowa may be confusing to some, but attending the mock caucuses at the Memorial Union's Sun Room on Tuesday night may have cleared some confusion for those who attended.

Mary Ann Spicer, president of the 3rd Congressional District of Republican Women, explained the process of the Republican caucus and how students can get involved.

"Perhaps the only reason holding some of you back is understanding the process," Spicer said.

Spicer said the Republican caucuses are very simple and one should arrive early, starting at 7 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2008. Arriving early allows participants to register to participate in the caucus if they have not already done so.

In order to register to vote at the caucuses, a person needs some way to prove his or her physical address, such as a state-issued ID or a utility bill with the name and address printed on it. As long as a person has lived in Iowa for 30 days prior to the caucuses, he or she can register to vote there.

Anyone wanting to participate can call the state party office in Des Moines, scan the computer or call the election office to find out their precinct address and where their precinct caucus is located.

"The night you attend that caucus, you must register for one party or the other," Spicer said.

She also said that doesn't mean participants can't switch back to the other later.

At the Republican caucus, Spicer said the first thing participants will do is elect a temporary chairperson and secretary to handle the election of the permanent chairperson and secretary. From there, those in attendance talk about the different candidates and eventually choose a candidate to support and help them get the delegate vote.

"From there, discussions will start on resolutions, and platforms that are called 'planks,'" Spicer said. "This is where your voice is truly heard."

All those in attendance vote on plank items. Spicer said anyone can come prepared with a platform that is important to them. This allows the person to discuss the issues and hopefully get the chairperson to vote for your platform.

This would then be moved to the county convention, the district convention and then the state convention.

Interest in the national convention needs to be established at the local caucuses. A list of interested parties is compiled from early on, and by the state convention, the people are chosen to attend the national convention.

The Democratic caucus runs differently from its Republican counterpart. The main difference is that the Democratic caucus incorporates viability.

"Viability means that you have to have 15 percent of folks there to be viable," said Gordon Fischer, former Iowa chairman of the Democratic Party.

If a candidate's group has 15 percent, then they are able to caucus. If they do not meet the 15 percent requirement, then the people in that candidate's group need to join other candidate groups until they are in a viable group.

"So on the Democratic side, your second choice, maybe even your third choice can actually be important," Fischer said.

Fischer went on to say that because Iowa is first in the nation, those who participate in the caucus have a huge effect on the election process.

"There's a ton of media and a ton of political types that focus on Iowa, that look at Iowa to see how candidates fare in the first election contest to decide who our next president of the United States will be," Fischer said.

After the explanation of the caucus, those in attendance were able to participate in a mock caucus for each party.

Katrina Schaefer, junior in political science, said she attended the mock caucus because she was interested in how it works and wants to attend the caucus in January. Schaefer said se thought the mock caucus was very informative.

"I thought it was very helpful to have a one-on-one informational meeting," Schaefer said. "People could have their questions personally answered and get a better idea of how the caucus system operates."
© 2007 Iowa State Daily via U-WIRE