Caucus What Now?

January 3, 2008

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There's a little event happening in our neighboring state today. Oh...you might have heard about it--the Iowa caucuses? Over the last few months it's been tough to turn on a network newscast without hearing about the nation's first vote. But how much does the average citizen in Chicago know about it? Chicago Public Radio's Robert Wildeboer reports.

I wondered, given the constant barrage of caucus related news stories, is anyone else as sketchy on the details of it as I am? I went to the food court at the Thompson center downtown Chicago at lunch and asked people exactly what they know about the caucuses.

DINER: Secaucus, New Jersey... I don't know anything about the Iowa Caucus... I know it's probably an overall picture of the opinion of most states but in a smaller context.

Kind of...I guess...but not really.

DINER: We don't know how they work we just know that they come, they get together, they say which president they want and that's it. Do you have a clue?

Indeed I do thanks to the miracle that is the internet. Tonight, voters will go to their caucus location which is somewhere in their neighborhood. Most are at schools and community centers just like polling places here in Chicago. But in the Iowa Caucus, unlike a primary, no one goes to a voting booth to cast a secret ballot. Instead, residents vote by standing under a sign with the name of the candidate they're supporting. Voters get a half an hour to mill about the room and try to convince others to come stand under their candidate's sign but when the half hour is up, everyone must choose and the votes are counted.

But that's not the end of it for democrats. Depending on how things shake out, state party rules allow for a second round of negotiating and voting. The caucuses begin at 7:00 tonight and voters can't be late because the doors will be locked after that.

I'm Robert Wildeboer, Chicago Public Radio.