Can you believe it is almost time to vote in the presidential primaries? The Iowa Caucuses are very soon, kicking off the primaries on February 3rd, starting at 7:00 pm CT and lasting about an hour. We know that President Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee, but we still need to decide who will be going up against him as the Democratic nominee.

This year, we will have 12 nominees going into the Iowa Caucuses for the Democrats. A caucus is different than a primary, which is what most states will be doing between February and June. But why is Iowa so important?

Iowa gives us the first look into what real people want. The thinking is that if a candidate does well in Iowa, they will probably do well everywhere else too. So we want to pay attention to what happens there.

So what exactly will happen in Iowa? How is it different than a regular primary?

Here is what you need to know:

  • With a primary, you walk into a room and vote privately, all by yourself. At a caucus, it is much more public.
  • Iowa Democrats will gather in different places such as gyms, community centers, public libraries, and even people’s houses and declare their support for a candidate.
  • During what is called the first alignment, the people will divide into groups based on who they want their vote to go for.
  • There will then be the first count, where candidates will need to have gained at least 15% support, sometimes more to be a viable candidate.
  • New for 2020, if someone supports a candidate and they become viable, their vote is locked and they can no longer choose another candidate.
  • During the second alignment, those whose candidate was not viable have three options. They can join another group with a viable candidate, they can try to get others from non-viable groups to come over and join their group which could help their candidate become viable, or they stay undecided or choose to sit it out.
  • The final count happens and then the votes will be weighted to estimate their “State Delegate Equivalents.” All candidates who are viable will get at least one of them.
  • Those with the most “State Delegate Equivalents” will win the Iowa Caucuses. However, in 2020, they have added a rule where they will need to report more than just that. They will also need to report how many actual people voted for each candidate, both the pre-realignment amount and the final amount. This is to give more transparency.
  • It is important to know that the Republican Party does things a little differently in Iowa, although for 2020 the focus will be on the Democrats as we already know who the Republican nominee will be.

In addition to Iowa, Wyoming, Nevada, American Samoa, Northern Mariana, Guam, and the Virgin Islands also have caucuses.

Now, who is still in the running?

Who has the chance of winning “state delegate equivalents?” Here are the 12 democrats still left in the race, in alphabetical order:

  • Michael Bennet, a Democratic member of the U.S. Senate from Colorado
  • Joe Biden, former Vice President and former Democratic member of the U.S Senate from Delaware
  • Michael Bloomberg, former three-term mayor of New York City
  • Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana
  • John Delaney, former Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, Maryland’s 6th Congressional District
  • Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Hawaii
  • Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic member of the U.S. Senate from Minnesota
  • Deval Patrick, former Democratic governor of Massachusetts
  • Bernie Sanders, an independent member of the U.S. Senate from Vermont, former mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Vermont
  • Tom Steyer, American hedge fund manager, and philanthropist from California
  • Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic member of the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts
  • Andrew Yang, entrepreneur, philanthropist, author, and lawyer from New York

But what if you are not in Iowa and not sure about when you get to vote?

Here is a list of all the other states and when they are holding their primaries or caucuses:

  • February 11th– New Hampshire
  • February 22nd– Nevada (D)
  • February 29th– South Carolina
  • March 3rd– Super Tuesday- Alabama, American Samoa (D), Arkansas, California, Colorado, Democrats Abroad, Maine, Massachuttes, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia (D)
  • March 10th– Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota (D), Washington
  • March 12th– Virgin Islands (R)
  • March 14th– Guam (R), Northern Mariana (D), Wyoming (R)
  • March 17th– Arizona (D), Florida, Illinois, Northern Mariana (R), Ohio
  • March 24th– American Samoa (R), Georgia
  • March 27th-North Dakota (R)
  • March 29th– Puerto Rico (D)
  • April 4th– Alaska (D), Hawaii (D), Louisiana, Wyoming (D)
  • April 7th– Wisconsin
  • April 28th – Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island
  • May 2th– Guam (D)
  • May 5th– Indiana
  • May 12th– Nebraska, West Virginia
  • May 19th– Kentucky, Oregon
  • June 2nd– District of Columbia, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota
  • June 6th– Virgin Islands (D)
  • June 7th– Puerto Rico (R)

Make sure your voice is heard and get out and vote! If you are not living in your home state, make sure you understand the policies and procedures for voting absentee.