Iowa caucus system explained

(WNDU) - Expressing support or opposition for a given candidate is illegal at polling places in Indiana and Michigan.

But in Iowa, at a caucus site, it is standard operating procedure.

A New York Times-Siena College poll shows most likely Democratic Iowa caucusgoers, 59%, have made up their minds on who they will support.

The caucus is largely about the 41% who remain undecided.

At an Iowa caucus site, there are no secret ballots. Everyone knows where you stand politically, by looking at where you’re standing physically.

“People physically go to a corner, a space in the room that shows their preference group, which candidate do you support. Go stand with your preference group, the people who support the same candidate you do,” said Indiana University at South Bend political science professor Elizabeth Bennion.

The first round involves a head count of where people are standing. If a given candidate fails to get support from at least 15% of the people in the room, he or she is deemed nonviable and supporters are given a chance to go to another candidate’s camp, or go home if they prefer.

“There, there are lots of choices to make and lots of opportunities to convince people, they sometimes call it jawboning. They’ll try to convince people to come to their group,” Bennion explained. “It does become a much more communal and deliberative process, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. We would like to see more of that in day-to-day politics, more talking and less people simply clicking on an internet story and then going to cast a vote.”

The caucusing in Iowa will start at 7 p.m. Central Time and will be somewhat time-consuming for those who take part.

A total of 41 committed delegates are at stake. Bennion says that’s about 1% of all associated with the party’s national convention.