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The Iowa caucuses explained

By Wolf Blitzer


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From CNN's Wolf Blitzer in Des Moines, Iowa:

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- I've been here in Iowa the past few days, enjoying the politics, the food and the friendly people. The caucus system is complex and can be quite messy.

It's not as simple as going into a voting booth and pulling a lever.

Here's how it works:

There are 1,933 caucus sites around the state.

At 7:30 p.m. ET, 6:30 p.m. CT, people gather in schools, community centers, church basements and even private homes.

By 8:00 p.m., they're asked to divide themselves up initially into various corners of the room -- Kerry supporters in one corner, Gephardt supporters in another, etc.

There will be a separate grouping for people who are not committed to any one candidate.

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Supporters of candidates who don't receive a minimum of 15 percent of the caucus-goers in the room -- will then have to make a decision: support a different candidate or go over to the uncommitted corner.

Other attendees will be lobbying the supporters of the unviable candidates, the ones with less than 15 percent of caucus-goers in their corner, to chose another candidate and join their group.

This process could last for a few minutes or even an hour or longer.

Eventually, the debating and horse-trading will end, with each person at the caucus in a specific group -- either a candidate group or the uncommitted group. At that point, the caucus precinct leader will call Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines with word of the tally.

In New Hampshire next week at the nation's first primary, it's a lot easier. People vote the old fashion way -- one person, one vote.


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