Nightly News   |  January 03, 2012

How do caucuses work?

NBC’s Ron Mott explains what a caucus is and how the caucus process works.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Let's talk about how this caucus process actually works on the ground. And to do that, we'll go northeast of Des Moines to Johnston , Iowa , where NBC 's Ron Mott is at Summit Middle School . Ron , I've always, having witnessed this, described it to people as voting with your body more than a ballot. It's so tactile and so retail, and such a unique slice of democracy.

RON MOTT reporting: It really is, Brian . Good evening. You know, these caucuses are a real throwback to a bygone era. Tip O'Neill used to say all politics is local. This may be the perfect example. This is neighbors coming together, politics, community politics right out in the open. Some of these meetings will be held in big spaces like this middle school cafeteria, others are in living rooms. We've even heard of one tonight scheduled for a winery.

MOTT: Now in a nutshell, here's what's going to happen. Voters will go into one of about 1800 of these precinct meetings in all 99 counties across Iowa . They will sit down, maybe grab a soda or a cup of coffee , and then they will listen. Surrogates for each of the candidates will be asked to come up if they want to make one final sales pitch to these voters. These voters are then handed a simple plain of sheet of paper. They will write down the name of the candidate that they support. The votes will be tabulated. It will be announced to the crowd here. They will all then head home, turn on some televisions, and perhaps cross their fingers and hope that their candidates end the night as the leader of the pack . Brian :

WILLIAMS: All right. Ron Mott in one of the larger caucus locations in the greater Des Moines area. Ron , thanks for