Iowa Caucuses 2016: How the Caucuses Work

The Iowa contest isn’t just your typical ballot-box election.

But the Iowa contest isn't just your typical ballot-box election.

Iowa, unlike other early-voting states New Hampshire and South Carolina, does not operate as a traditional primary because they will not immediately award any delegates to a specific candidate.

Iowa's Historical Precedence

Since 1972, Iowans have gathered in public places like schools and community centers not to elect delegates to the national convention like most other states, but to elect lower-level precinct delegates. These precinct delegates will go to one of 99 county-level conventions to advocate on behalf of the candidate they supported during one of the 1,681 precinct-level elections. From there, delegates are chosen for a congressional district-level caucus and finally a statewide convention, where delegates to the national convention are finally selected in late May.

Different Parties, Different Rules

Iowa's Kingmaker Status

Iowa's Maverick Status

Iowa also has a history of rejecting the frontrunners of each political party.

ABC’s Chris Good contributed reporting.