Everything you need to know about tonight's Iowa caucuses

Tonight, the 2016 presidential election officially begins as voters in Iowa gather to caucus for their favorite presidential nominees. Here's everything you need to know about the election tradition.

  1. Do Democrats and Republicans have the same process?


    In Iowa, the Republican and Democratic state parties have entirely different methods for nominating a presidential candidate. The Republican process is fairly simple, with voters gathering at caucus locations at 8 p.m. ET to cast a secret ballot for the candidate they support. Delegates are then affixed to candidates in proportion to the amount of votes that candidates receive statewide.

    The Democrats' process is a little more complicated. At 8 p.m. ET, participants gather at their local caucus location and separate into different areas of the room based on the candidate they support. If any candidate fails to gather 15% of the support at a particular location, those candidates ' supporters must choose a different candidate to caucus for. Once everyone in the room supports a viable candidate, headcounts are taken for each group and delegates are assigned proportionately.

  2. How many delegates are up for grabs in Iowa?

    Iowa offers 30 delegates in total for Republican candidates. It takes 1,237 delegates to receive the Republican nomination for president. 

    On the Democrat side, there are 44 total delegates available. It takes 2,382 delegates to secure the Democratic nomination for president. 

  3. Why are the Iowa caucuses so important?

    Traditionally, the Iowa caucuses are treated as the first real indicator of as to who will receive the nominations for their party. As the first election competition in the country, every candidate wants to have a good showing in order to get some momentum going into the rest of the primary elections. 

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