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What is a caucus? How Nevada's two days of voting are different

How candidates win delegates during primaries
How candidates win delegates during primary season 01:47

What is a caucus and how does it work? The Iowa caucuses, the first 2024 presidential nominating contest, took place on Jan. 15,  and Nevada will hold caucuses on Feb. 8. 

Nevada held primaries for Democrats, which President Biden handily won, on Feb. 6 and for Republicans, which got a little bit more complicated. Former President Donald Trump wasn't on the ballot for the primary, but Nikki Haley was and yet came in second to "none of these candidates." 

CBS News projects that former President Donald Trump will win the Nevada Republican caucuses Thursday, easily defeating challenger Ryan Binkley.

Haley wasn't on the ballot for the caucuses, all but assuring a victory for Trump. 

Trump won the Iowa caucuses, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis coming in second and Haley landing in third. The field of Republicans vying for the party's presidential nomination narrowed after that, with biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy suspending his campaign immediately after his fourth-place finish and DeSantis dropping out a few days later. 

Here's a guide to the caucuses, including what to expect in Nevada, which is also holding a primary the same week.

When are the 2024 Nevada caucuses?

The Nevada caucuses will be held on Thursday, Feb. 8, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m PT (8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m ET). 

The Nevada primary was held on Tuesday, Feb. 6. But the caucuses are the only GOP race in Nevada that will determine delegates. Haley is on the primary ballot but not the caucus ballot; Trump will be on the caucus ballot but not in the primary.

That led to a surprising result in Nevada's Republican primary Tuesday, with CBS News projecting that Haley had come in second to the "none of these candidates" category, delivering what is likely to be a huge blow to her campaign. 

President Joe Biden is projected by CBS News to win the Democratic presidential primary, defeating author Marianne Williamson among other candidates. Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips was not on the ballot, having entered the race after the state's filing deadline passed.

What is the difference between a primary and a caucus? 

States can hold either primaries or caucuses as part of the presidential nomination process. Both processes allocate delegates based on the percentage of the vote received by candidates. At the national party convention, the candidate with the most delegates becomes the party's nominee. Caucuses are run by the state party, while primaries are run by the state.

A caucus is a political meeting, as opposed to a primary, which is an election.

How do the Republican caucuses work? 

A representative from each campaign is allowed to give a short speech in support of its candidate, and then ballots are handed out to the caucusgoers, who vote by secret ballot. The ballots are then collected and counted in open view of the caucus. A campaign representative is allowed to view the counting, but members of the press are not. 

After the results are tabulated, they're recorded on a form by the caucus secretary and announced by the precinct chair and then submitted electronically to the Iowa Republican Party. 

How many delegates are at stake in Nevada?

Republicans will award 26 delegates in the caucuses on Feb. 8. The state's Republican primary, which is being held on Feb. 6, will not award any delegates. 

For Republicans, there are 2,400 total delegates being awarded during the 2024 primary season. To win the nomination, a Republican needs 1,215 delegates. 

Despite all the time and attention paid to the Iowa caucuses because it's the first contest, there were only 40 delegates at stake. Iowa's delegates to the Republican National Convention will be bound on the first ballot proportionally to the results of the caucuses. Of the 40 delegates up for grabs, Trump was projected to earn 20, DeSantis eight and Haley seven.

Who can participate in the Iowa caucuses?

Registered Republicans who are eligible to vote on Election Day — or who will be 18 years old by Election Day — may participate in the Iowa caucuses. An independent or Democrat may also register as a Republican on caucus night to participate. 

In Iowa, caucusgoers were required to check in at their precinct location by 6:30 p.m. local time. There are 1,670 precincts, which are all organized by volunteers. 

Who can participate in the Nevada caucuses?

Registered Republicans can participate in the Nevada caucuses, and according to the state Republican party, a government-issued ID is necessary. Voting takes place on paper ballots, and caucus-goers can observe the tabulation. 

Is it Iowa caucus or Iowa caucuses? 

In Iowa, there are over 1,600 precincts throughout the state's 99 counties where individual caucuses are taking place, which is why the contest is referred to as the Iowa caucuses. 

What are the Democrats doing in Iowa this year?

Iowa Democrats also held their caucuses on Jan. 15, but in order to comply with the Democratic National Committee's new calendar, which makes South Carolina its first nominating contest, they are voting entirely by mail-in ballot in 2024 and will release the results on Super Tuesday, March 5.

In 2020, Democrats were plagued by technical glitches in Iowa and ended up reporting the results days late.

In prior years, Democrats choose their candidate by standing with their fellow supporters in different parts of the room. There was also a "viability threshold," so if a candidate did not receive 15% of the supporters, their supporters could try to win over other caucusgoers to meet the required threshold or disband and support the viable candidates — or remain uncommitted entirely.

But Democrats have been trying to move away from that system, especially after the chaotic 2020 caucuses.

Why does Nevada have a GOP primary and a GOP caucus?

Primaries are run by states, while caucuses are run by the state parties. In 2021, Nevada's legislature passed a bipartisan bill to move away from the traditional caucuses to a primary system, a move pushed by Nevada Democrats after their party's chaotic 2020 caucuses. 

But the Nevada Republican Party decided to push ahead with the caucuses anyway, suing the state last year. The Nevada Republicans in a statement that state Democrats were attempting to "force Republicans to change the way we choose our Presidential nominee, and allow out-of-state interests to interfere in the Nevada GOP nominating process."

The winner will of the caucuses will be awarded delegates to support them at the Republican National Convention in July. This means that Haley, who is only listed on the primary ballot, will not be eligible to be allocated delegates from Nevada.

The Democratic primary will still be held on Feb. 6, with President Biden and Marianne Williamson on the ballot. Rep. Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat challenging Mr. Biden, did not apply to be on the ballot by the deadline. 

Olivia Rinaldi, Aaron Navarro, Hunter Woodall, Allison Novelo, Fin Gómez and Jennifer De Pinto contributed to this report. 

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