How does a caucus work?

Life is series of mystery. Politics ought not to be a mystery. But, it often seems like every few years your news channel or social media get blown up with some smiling, well dressed politician campaigning for some position. You know that having representatives that have your same political leanings is important so that you have laws and policies you agree with. But you just don’t know these people. How did they get to get to be the smiling face of a party? Who says that they truly represent your interests?

This is where your involvement becomes relevant to the political process.

Every state has a different system. But there are general steps that are universal to state that use a caucus system, the system used in Utah. To learn about the nuances of Utah’s caucus system go to Here are the general steps to get you going:

  1. First, citizens gather at caucuses to vote for delegates. A caucus is a gathering within a small geographical area called a precinct. A delegate is someone that is chosen to represent the districts interest.  The citizens at the caucus nominate people they think would be good delegates to represent their precinct at larger party conventions. The nominees then give presentations that spell out what issues are important to them. You then vote on a delegate that you think represents your interests. It is very important to be sure that you choose someone who best represents your interests because these delegates then go on to larger conventions to choose who gets to be on the ballot for certain elections.
  2. Next, the delegate you selected goes to larger state conventions where they nominate potential candidates for whatever election is relevant. After nominations and presentations as to why potential candidates represent the area the best, the delegate you chose votes on who should be on the ballot for that election. Sometimes there are ties or no clear winners after the first vote. The delegates keep voting and discussing who should be the candidate until a clear winner is chosen through run off or cascading votes. Most work like this: the delegates vote and the potential candidate with the least number of votes is disqualified. The cycle continues until there is one clear winner of the candidacy.
  3. After the delegates select a candidate, they are then the official party selection for candidacy for that election. This is where you come in again. You go to poll stations in general elections to choose which parties candidate get to take that office.


Here is a story that outlines one example of the whole process in motion.

You go to a caucus and find that Jane Doe really represents your interests and the interest of the precinct well. You nominate her to be a delegate. It turns out that a lot of people feel the same way and she is chosen as a delegate for your precinct. Jane Doe then goes to a convention where the goal is to choose a candidate for an open state senate seat. Using her knowledge of what your interests and the interest of your precinct are, she votes for Joe Busybody to be the party candidate to run for the open state senate seat. There are no clear winners after a first round of voting. The candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated. Jane Doe votes again and again until there is a clear winner. Turns out Joe Busybody wins. He becomes the party representative for that elections cycle. The general election comes around and Joe Busybody is your party’s candidate chosen by a delegate that you chose. Now, you get a chance to vote for a candidate that represents your interests and it all started with you.

Does this help demystify the mystery of how the party system works? If there is something that you want to know more about, feel free to send us an email at and we will do our best to answer your questions regarding the caucus system.

Chris Larson – Intern


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