Iowa Caucus Hours: What Time Do ‘Polls’ Open & Close?


The Iowa Democratic Caucus is a quicker affair this year than previous years. This time, attendees can only vote twice rather than multiple times, which sometimes led precinct caucuses to last late into the night. Instead of having “polls” all day long like during a primary, the Iowa caucus takes place at a specific time and voters must be there for the entirety. Here’s a look at the time it starts and ends and how long it lasts today on Monday, February 3, 2020. You can follow live results here.

Doors Open No Later than 6:30 PM & You Must Be in Line by 7 PM Central

Unlike primaries, where you can vote all day during a specific time period, caucuses are different. In Iowa, you have to show up at a specific time and stay for the duration of the caucus. It’s more like a party meeting than your traditional polling vote.

In most locations, the Iowa caucuses will begin at 7 p.m. Central sharp (that’s 8 p.m. Eastern.) However, it’s recommended that voters arrive early, especially if they need to register, Des Moines Register reported. In fact, if you’re planning to vote, try to arrive by 6:15 or 6:30 p.m. at the latest. (Precinct caucus locations must open no later than 6:30 p.m. Central, according to the Iowa Democratic Party.)

You have to be in the registration line or already signed in by 7 p.m. Central in order to participate in the Democratic caucus.

In addition to the Iowa-located caucuses, there will be 99 satellite locations too in 13 states, D.C., and in France, Scotland, and the Republic of Georgia, Des Moines Register reported. The full list is here. Some of these might start earlier than 7 p.m., with some starting as early as 1 p.m. or even 10 a.m. Central (the Republic of Georgia.) Closed satellite locations are only available to people at the site, such as assisted living. Open satellite locations are available to anyone who is a registered Democrat in Iowa. If you’re not already registered and you’re in Iowa, you might want to go to a precinct location rather than a satellite. Some open satellites require pre-registration, while all precinct locations let you register or change your party at the door.

The Last Satellite Caucus Votes at 7:45 PM Central

One listed satellite caucus is actually starting later than 7 p.m. Central. This is a closed satellite at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. The satellite caucus doesn’t start its voting until 7:45 p.m. Central. It has the latest start time of the precincts and the satellite caucuses.

The Iowa Caucuses End After Just Two Votes This Year, But Results Are Delayed Until Tuesday

The Iowa caucuses will actually end earlier than they did in 2016 — some will end significantly earlier. This is because only two alignment votes are being allowed this time around. In previous years, multiple rounds of voting might happen to realign people into viable groups, and this could take a long time. That won’t be happening this year, the Iowa Democratic Party explained.

Although an exact time when the results will be announced isn’t known, Brookings estimated it will be around 11 p.m. Eastern on February 3 or 10 p.m. Central. NPR noted that the caucuses are actually expected to just last an hour, with some ending at 8 p.m. Central (9 p.m. Eastern.)

However, as of 9:17 p.m. Central (10:17 p.m. Eastern), the Iowa Democrat Party reported that results were taking longer than expected.

This delay is partly due to how many people are showing up to vote. So don’t be surprised if it takes a while for results to come in. Here’s the line of people waiting to register to vote or change their party affiliation at DSM-55. As long as they are in line by 7 p.m., they can vote in the caucus. So it was going to take some time just to get everyone registered.

However, there are other reasons for the delay too, some of which aren’t entirely clear.

By midnight Central, it was clear results would not be released until sometime on Tuesday.

After the votes are counted, these are reported to the state party. The party verifies the votes and reports it to the media.

The party will officially report three numbers, including the “state delegate equivalent”, CNN reported. The “state delegate equivalent” is the number typically used to show who “won.” The party will also release the vote counts for the first and final preference.

Note that the Iowa Democratic Party does not declare a caucus winner, but simply presents results to the public and the SDE number (which is the number of state delegates allotted per candidate, technically called the State Delegate Equivalency number.) An approximate allocation of national convention delegates will also be reported, the IDP noted.

This isn’t the last step before the Democratic National Convention, however. After this, county conventions will take place in Iowa in March, where candidates’ delegates are selected. In April, these delegates will attend district conventions, followed by a state convention in June, Des Moines Register reported. Then national delegates will be chosen to attend the Democratic National Convention in July, where the nominee is officially selected.

In order to win the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention, a candidate needs a total of 1,991 pledged delegates. A total of 41 pledged national delegates are up for grabs in Iowa, CNN reported. Then there are eight additional unpledged delegates in Iowa, which include five members of the Democratic National Committee and three members of Congress. These unpledged PLEO delegates were previously known in 2016 as superdelegates. Unlike in 2016, they will only be able to vote at the Democratic National Convention if a candidate does not get a majority of votes on the first ballot at the DNC.

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