UNI to hold non-partisan mock caucus

The University of Northern Iowa is hosting a mock caucus at 7 p.m. Jan. 27 in the Maucker Union Ballrooms, open to UNI students and the Cedar Valley community.

Organized by the department of political science, the nonpartisan event will shed light on the purpose of caucusing and the importance of living in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa. Participants will be led through the processes that both parties use to conduct their caucuses and to tabulate and report results. 

“When it comes time to caucus, the process can be intimidating,” said professor of political science Donna Hoffman. “As part of our bipartisan training, we take students through the nuances of the processes, which are different depending on whether one attends a Democratic or a Republican caucus.”

Both parties hold caucuses Feb. 3 to select delegates to the county convention, develop platform planks and hold party governance elections. However, the parties differ significantly in how they do these things.  Exposing students to both rule systems and processes enables them to be ready to participate on caucus night and helps them learn about how the other party operates.

Students also will learn how to find their caucus site and how they can same-day register (or change their party registration) so that they are able to participate. Although the event itself is nonpartisan, representatives from campaigns will have tables outside so that students can gather last-minute information about candidates. 

Civic engagement remains a strong priority at UNI. The university won Iowa Campus Compact’s 2019 emerging innovation award for its #PanthersVote voter engagement initiative, which led to an impressive 46.2% voting turnout rate for the 2018 midterm elections, the highest amongst Iowa’s public universities. The university will be utilizing a similar #PanthersCaucus social media awareness campaign leading up to Feb. 3. 

“The precinct caucuses afford us a unique opportunity,” said Justin Holmes, associate professor of political science and director of UNI’s chapter of the American Democracy Project. “It is important to recognize caucuses are more than just signaling support for a candidate; they are a key element in grassroots party governance. It is a civic responsibility we encourage our students to take seriously.”

The UNI mock caucus is sponsored by the Department of Political Science, American Democracy Project and Northern Iowa Student Government.


Scott Peters, Political Science Department Head, 319-273-2727, scott.peters@uni.edu