What makes caucuses so different from voting

Published: Jan. 28, 2020 at 5:52 PM EST
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There's less than a week to go before the Iowa caucuses.

Vermont, New Hampshire and New York are all primary states, meaning you go to the polls, cast your vote and leave. But the process is somewhat more involved in caucus states like Iowa; voters have to show up and then stick around to support their chosen candidate.

Our Adam Sullivan is in Cedar Rapids to show you what the caucus process looks like. He also asked voters about where they stand.

Cedar Rapids is described by some as a sleepy little town, even though it is Iowa's second-largest city with a population of more than 125,000 people. And, every four years, like cities and towns across the Hawkeye State, they get a front-row seat in presidential politics.

"We tend to be very liberal in some regards and very conservative in other regards. It's a 50/50 balance and so it is always interesting to watch," said Jeremie Collins of Marion, Iowa.

Like New Hampshire's first in the nation primary, the candidates have been visiting Iowa often, trying to gain supporters who will caucus for them Feb. 3.

"I think you go with, regardless of party, whoever has the best ideas for your values. However you grew up, whatever is important to you," Collins said.

Helping to inform the voters-- news stations across the region. Like WCAX's sister station KCRG.

"Honestly, that is one of my favorite things about being in news in Iowa. The people here are extraordinarily engaged," said Adam Carros, the news director at KCRG.

This is Carros' fourth election cycle covering the Iowa caucuses. And this time around, he says the campaigning began shortly after President Trump was elected in 2016.

"Politics are front and center and having really educated debates and discussions about the issues and about the candidates and what that means for us here in Iowa," Carros said.

Caucus night, the station will have reporters embedded with the top four candidates: Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren. But the story is also about those turning out to their individual precincts. If any candidate does not meet the minimum threshold of support-- typically 15%-- those supporters are encouraged to join another candidate's corner.

"Really at the heart of it, the point of the caucuses is to be narrowed down to people who really care and are really passionate," Carros explained.

People like Cheyrl Hines of Cedar Rapids who has narrowed the field to two.

"I have probably seen the candidates five or six times, so I really try and learn what each candidate stands for and who I think is the best choice," Hines said.

But no matter how passionate Iowans are about their politics, there still can be too much of a good thing.

"I know a lot of us are really happy when caucus season is over," Collins said. "It's like traffic season or construction season. We are happy when it is over."