2016 Iowa caucuses: You’ve got questions, the League of Women Voters has answers

Caucusing 101

Iowa City Public Library — Sunday, Jan. 24 at 2 p.m.

Iowa City Public Library
Caucusing 101 will take place in the Iowa City Public Library’s Meeting Room A. — photo by Randy Stern

Confused about how the Iowa caucuses work? You’re not alone.

In fact, the nuance of Iowa’s caucusing process is part of the reason we’re “first in the nation” in the first place — a kind of happy accident (for Iowans, at least) resulting from changes to the primary process following the turbulent 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Due to the complexity of Iowa’s more inclusive, newly developed caucusing system, officials realized they’d have to start the process early. As early as February, to be exact.

And just like that, Iowa became first in the nation. We just needed a bit more time, is all.

As Des Moines Register Columnist Kathy O’Bradovich put it during an appearance on NPR last week, “The really important thing to remember about Iowa is not that it’s first because it’s important. Iowa is important because it’s first.”

And with this (accidental) importance comes great responsibility, of course. Responsibility to engage. Responsibility to listen. Responsibility to participate.

Fortunately, that’s where Johnson County’s League of Women Voters (LWVJC) steps in. On Sunday, Jan. 24 at 2 p.m., the nonpartisan advocacy organization will host a free forum at the Iowa Public Library (Meeting Room A) to discuss everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Iowa caucuses, but have been too shy to ask.

“We really want to encourage voters who have never caucused before to learn a little bit about it, so that they won’t feel uncomfortable, and so they’ll be aware of how caucuses evolve,” said LWVJC board member Linda Schreiber.

The event will include a brief history of the Iowa caucuses, as well as a mock caucus using fictitious candidates.

Schreiber says the organization, which works to create a nonpartisan approach to educating and registering voters, is interested in increasing voter participation for a number of reasons, most notably because elections are expensive. With greater participation comes greater accountability on behalf of our elected officials as well, Schreiber argues.

The event is also a great way to discuss important voter issues with neighbors, Schreiber says, adding that political discourse among community members is a healthy (and fundamental) part of the democratic process, rather than something to be avoided.

“I think it’s really important to … discuss differences — particularly if we want to come to any kind of consensus or compromise to keep things moving forward as opposed to standing still and shutting government down,” she said. “That just benefits no one, and it’s actually costly in the long run.”

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This event is free and open to the public (registration is not required). Those interested in getting involved with Johnson County’s League of Women Voters can find more information online.