• The Iowa caucuses are being held under a new set of rules designed to make them more transparent and accessible
  • The doors open at 6:30 p.m. and anyone not in line by 7 p.m. will not be allowed to participate
  • Polls indicate Bernie Sanders is leading the field of Democratic candidates

The Iowa caucuses are the first chance Democrats get to choose their 2020 nominee, but results of Monday night’s jockeying for votes could allow multiple candidates to declare victory.

Iowans cherish their first-in-the nation status while critics say the state has a out-size influence on choosing the eventual nominee. The same criticism is leveled at New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first primary next week.

Polls indicate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was going into the caucuses as the leading candidate with former Vice President Joe Biden hot on his heels. In addition to Sanders and Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bennet and Amy Klobuchar; businessmen Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick are vying for Iowa voters. Results will be available here.

For the first time, the party plans to release raw vote totals – a reform stemming from the 2016 caucuses when a final vote total justifying the awarding of state delegates never was produced, angering Sanders’ supporters. If one candidate wins the first round of voting, but someone else emerges in the second round, both candidates might claim victory.

The Iowa Democratic party doesn’t declare a winner; rather, it says it presents the results. The number of delegates any single candidate wins is calculated by caucus chairs and precinct captains based on formulas involving the number of delegates allotted to each precinct, the number of people attending the caucus and the number of people supporting each candidate. The totals are then recalculated on the state level to come up with something called a state delegate equivalent.

The state’s 1,678 precincts are scheduled to open their doors at 6:30 p.m. CST. Anyone not lined up by 7 p.m. will not be allowed in to vote. For the first time, satellite locations for students on college campuses, those who have accessibility issues, people who have language or cultural needs, and those who winter elsewhere.

Before voting begins, speeches supporting each of the candidates are delivered and caucus-goers attempt to persuade each other.

Iowans literally vote with their feet, physically standing in space allotted to a specific candidate. Candidates need to secure at least 15% of the vote in a precinct to secure delegate equivalents, with the percentage needed increasing in precincts with fewer candidates. People whose candidates make the threshold fill out a preference card locking in their votes and leave. In the second round, voters supporting nonviable candidates can try to convince others to support their cause or they can join the camp of one of the viable candidates.

Iowa will send 41 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee July 13-16 – just 1% of the delegate total – while 2,100 state delegate equivalents will be chosen Monday night. That number gets whittled in the following county caucuses in March, the district caucuses in April and finally the state convention in June.