What States Have Caucuses?

By Geoffrey Migiro on February 16 2020 in Politics

Democratic signs in Iowa City. Editorial credit: Kevin McGovern
  • Caucuses are older than primaries, and they were first used in the British colonies in North America
  • The Democratic Party plans to have its members use the ranking system in the 2020 caucuses in Wyoming
  • The Democratic Party will be the only party using caucuses in Nevada

The American voting system is made up of 2 rounds of voting. During the first round, a caucus or primary is held, and the voters select their nominees who will compete in the general elections. Primaries are preliminary elections in which voters nominate candidates who will represent their party in the general elections. Caucuses are meetings of party members or leaders to nominate candidates, establish the party’s position on specific issues, and chose convention delegates. The exact origin of the name ‘caucus’’ is highly debated; however, it is agreed that it was first used in North America. Caucuses are older than primaries. They were popular in the United States until the 1970s when most U.S. states started adopting primaries. However, thirteen US states and three territories still hold caucuses.

What states hold caucuses?

Iowa

Iowa holds caucuses for the members of both Republican and Democratic Parties every 2 years. Unlike the primaries, in most American states where voters cast their votes in polling stations, in Iowa, the Iowans gather in several caucus meetings to nominate their candidates. During the midterm and presidential election seasons, registered voters meet and vote in the per-precinct caucuses of their party. The Iowans also hold caucuses to select party committees and delegates to county-convention among other party activities. The 2020 Democratic caucuses took place on February 3, 2020, and it ended with Bernie Sanders winning the popular vote. 

Nevada

During the Nevada caucuses, which began in 2008, the locals met in their precinct caucus to choose the delegates that will represent them in the county conventions. Nevada has 17 counties; therefore, there are 17 conventions. The county conventions pick the delegates to represent them in the Nevada-State Convention, which selects the delegates to represent them in the presidential-nomination conventions.  The 2012 Nevada caucuses were the third main electoral activity in the country for the nomination process of the presidential candidates. The Republicans held their caucus on February 23, 2016, while the democrats had their event on February 20, 2016. The democrats plan to hold their caucuses on February 22, 2020 while the Republican Party plan to use primaries in Nevada in 2020. 

North Dakota

In North Dakota, parties hold caucuses after every 4 years to choose delegates to represent them in the presidential nomination conventions. In 2016, the Republican Party didn’t hold the caucuses in North Dakota; instead, they selected their presidential delegate at the party’s convention in April.  The Democratic Party held its caucuses on June 7, 2016. The Democratic Party plans to have a firehouse-style caucus in North Dakota in 2020, where the entire voting process will be done in an open place instead of closed polling booths.

Wyoming

The Democratic Party plans to hold its Wyoming caucus on April 4, 2020, and this time they plan to allow their members to rank their choices instead of just picking one. The ranking system was piloted in Kansas, Hawaii, Alaska, and Maine in 2018. The 2020 Democrats event is a closed caucus, which means only registered members can vote either through the mail  (from January 30, 2020, to March 20, 2020), at the voter’s station on March 28, 2020, or at the caucus event on April 4, 2020.

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