Currently, only about 71% of the Iowa caucus results have been reported. Joe Biden's vote total is sitting at about 15.6%. If, after the remaining results are reported, his total drops below 15%, does he still receive delegates?

Or for a more extreme example, suppose a candidate receives a plurality of votes in one district and isn't even viable in any others. Their total vote percentage would be less than 1%, but they would still have racked up a few state delegate equivalents. Do they receive any delegates from Iowa? And does this process vary from state to state?

3 Answers 3


According to the New York Times, there is a 15% threshold in both the first and final expressions (rounds), but it seems the rule applies at a per-precinct level, not to state-wide aggregates.

The first alignment shows the initial preferences of caucusgoers in a precinct, and there's a 15 percent threshold for a candidate to move on to the final vote. Candidates must receive 15 percent of the final alignment vote to earn any of a precinct's state delegate equivalents, which will determine the number of pledged delegates awarded to each candidate.

From https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/02/03/us/elections/results-iowa-caucus-precinct-map.html

It appears the original question depends on aggregate (%) figures rather than per-district vote counts. It seems the "SDE" figures already account for the viability threshold rules at the precinct level, in which case, Biden supporters could still get state delegates even if the aggregate falls below 15%


When it comes to delegates to the DNC, delegates from Iowa are awarded based on both congressional district and statewide levels.

If a candidate gets 15% of the vote in any congressional district, they will get delegates for that district, even if they fail to reach 15% statewide.

Source: The Green Papers


Viability applies to all rounds

The 2020 caucus change in Iowa is that they limited the ability to realign (you can only do so if you pick a candidate who falls below the 15% minimum), and limited the number of rounds

Voters who chose candidates with below 15% support have options. They can either join a viable candidate group and lock in their support, join with another campaign under 15% to make that candidate’s group viable, convince other voters to join their group to make their own candidate viable, join an “uncommitted” group, or they may simply go home.

The voters record their preferences on paper, reflecting the final alignment.

In previous years, the realignment process could go on for many rounds and take hours. This year, the process is streamlined, and caucus-goers have only two opportunities to declare their presidential preference.

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