Guest Author - Linda Sue Grimes
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has proved to be the big winner of the Iowa caucuses, with Governor Mitt Romney coming in second, Senators Fred Thompson third and John McCain fourth. The map at the left shows the precincts in blue representing Huckabee, Red for Mitt Romney; however, the little yellow block represents Congressman Ron Paul voters. Therefore, the map is not quite correct, since it does not feature the third and fourth placed runners-up.
Because it is a presidential election year, our republic requires that our citizens select candidates to compete in the election. But first, the candidates have to be nominated. The caucus and primary systems both exist to perform this function in an orderly fashion.
The Primary System
Under the primary system, voters simply cast their vote for the presidential hopeful of their choice. Each state has its own primary system, however. In some states, each party has its own primary (closed primary), but in others, both parties may vote in the same primary (open primary.) Then there are also primaries that are semi-open, such as the New Hampshire primary, which will be held in 2008 on January 8.
The Caucus System
The most noted caucus system is the Iowa Caucus. The Republican caucus is quite simple: the voters come to the caucus and write down their choice for candidate on a slip of paper and drop it in the ballot box.
The Democrat system is much more complex. The voters gather at the caucus site and spit into groups that support each candidate. If a candidate’s supporters are fewer than 15%, the candidate is not considered viable for the national election, and the supporters then may decide to throw their support with another candidate.
There are some 2000 caucus locations throughout Iowa, and they may be churches, schools, or party members’ homes. As mentioned, the Republican supports simply show up and vote, but the Democrat supporters gather to discuss the policies of each candidate. The Democrat supporters are known to one another; they may, in fact, be neighbors. Sometime friendships are lost because of differences of political opinion at caucuses.
In addition to selecting their candidates for possible nomination, both the primary and caucus system function to select delegates to send to the national convention, where the final nomination process takes.
Delegates may be selected by a proportional method or a winner-take-all method. With the proportional method, the number of delegates a candidate receives depends on the number of votes the candidate garners. For example, if the candidate receives 60% of the vote, s/he received 60% of the delegates. The winner-take-all method means that the candidate receiving the most votes gets all the delegates.
A Complex System
The process for selecting the president is quite complex. And the preceding is a much simplified overview. Each state is free to devise it own system. To find out how your state selects its delegates, you will need to contact your state government election divisions.
For more information:
Tennessee Division of Elections
Indiana Election Division