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A Look At The Ankeny, Iowa, Caucus Site


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

In about an hour, Iowans will begin caucusing in the nation's first presidential contest of 2012. Republicans are gathering at sites representing more than 1,700 precincts. While voters can write in any name they like, six candidates leave the field. The top vote-getters will head into next week's New Hampshire primary with fresh momentum and while those at the bottom could find their campaigns on life support.

We have two live reports now from caucus sites. First, NPR's Ted Robbins at a school in Ankeny, Iowa. And, Ted, what's the scene where you are? How many people have shown up already?

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Well, other than the people who are running the show - not many, I'd tell you about - a dozen so far, but they're filtering in slowly. And there are a lot of chairs set up. I was talking with the temporary precinct chair, Ken Hall(ph). We're at the 9th Ankeny precinct. And he expects 200 to 400 people.

SIEGEL: And what's the process that those 200, 400 people might take part in once the caucus begins?

ROBBINS: Right. And, you know, Mr. Hall is aware that most people have, as he puts it, have lives and want to do their thing and get out of here. So the first thing to do, they elect a permanent chair, and it will probably be him because, as he acknowledges, nobody else really wants to run the meeting. And then the question is if you're registered, you get checked off. If you're not registered, there's a table where you can get registered tonight, right there. And as I said, they expect up to 400 people.

And then the next thing that happens is the people stand up and one person each - (unintelligible) it can be more than one person. But each candidate - each of the six gets up to five minutes to speak. Now, we met a couple of people who were from out of state who have come to talk for Rick Perry. They get to talk, but if there's somebody from the precinct who wants to talk for Rick Perry in his (unintelligible), they get first shot at it.

So then they fill out the ballots, which happen to be a little two-inch-by-hour-inch purple slits of blank paper, and they have the seal of the state of Iowa on them. They're blank. People fill out the ballots, they collect them, and they expect to have them all counted by 8 p.m.

SIEGEL: And this will happen in several hundred places all over the state of Iowa.

ROBBINS: Indeed.

SIEGEL: That's our Ted Robbins, speaking to us from one caucus site, in Ankeny, Iowa. Thank you, Ted.

ROBBINS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.