To the uninitiated the multitiered caucus-convention system nominating national convention delegates is a complicated operation. The first step in the process begins at the precinct level.
A precinct caucus is a meeting conducted by a political party to nominate and elect precinct delegates to the county convention. Any party member who lives in the precinct is eligible to participate in all of the precinct's business. As the main order of business, partisans declare and vote their preference among the presidential candidates. In the Democratic Party, delegates are chosen, then, in proportion to the presidential preferences of those attending the precinct caucus. In the Republican Party, delegates may be allocated either on a winner-take-all basis or proportionally. Since 1976, however, the Democratic National Committee has refused to accept state party rules in which a presidential candidate who wins a plurality of votes in a caucus or primary wins all of the state's delegates. 1 Democratic rules require that all states adhere to some form of proportional representation in selecting precinct and convention delegates.
In a sense, the modern caucus system is similar to a primary in that all party members within the state are eligible to participate. In Iowa, for example, the 2,500 precinct caucuses are convened each four years on a frosty winter evening in local homes, schools, fire stations, and even local barbershops. Attendees at the precinct caucuses elect a designated number of precinct delegates (usually allocated on the basis of the popular vote in