Welp, the fourth Presidential primary contest of the year is almost upon us. The Nevada caucuses were moved up in the calendar in 2008 to provide some more geographical diversity to the nomination process, and they are still one of the least understood contests in the nation. They are virtually impossible to accurately poll, and not tremendously well covered.

Part of that has to do with their bizarre schedule, which prevents most of the country from following along the way they do for Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. So if this is the first time you’ve seriously tuned in to the Nevada caucuses, here’s what to expect.

Schedule: 

Late. The schedule is late. Some caucuses open at 5pm PT, and some open at 7pm PT. All of them close at 9pm PT. That’s right; the caucuses won’t close until midnight Eastern time. Results will take another couple of hours after that. This is the one day a year the east coast media absolutely hates Nevada. Rest assured, Nevada does not give a crap about the east coast media’s feelings.

That having been said, this kind of insane schedule does diminish media coverage of what was supposed to be an important event. If the idea is to make Nevada more important, they should move to a primary and close the polls at 7pm local time like a decent state.

Nevada. smdh

Process:

Here is where it gets kind of weird. Like in Iowa, you will have representatives who will get up and speak in front of each caucus site. Then, what technically happens is that each caucus elects delegates to represent them at the county convention in March. Delegates are largely chosen based on who they support for President. Then in March, the county conventions elect delegates to the state convention, which is held in April, so the delegates are technically unbound until April.

At the end of each caucus, a “straw poll” will be taken by secret ballot, and the results tallied and recorded. This total is what the media will be reporting tonight as “votes.” Again, technically, they are nonbinding on who is actually chosen at the state convention as delegates, the final selection of delegates to the Republican National Convention is supposed to (by party rules) follow the results of the presidential preference straw polls proportionally.

How will that work?

Delegate allocation

Nevada has 30 delegates at the RNC up for grabs. Ballotpedia has the best explanation for the formula to be used:

Nevada is expected to have 30 delegates at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Of this total, 12 will be district-level delegates (three for each of the state’s four congressional districts). Nevada’s district-level delegates will be allocated on a proportional basis; each candidate who wins a percentage of the statewide caucus vote in Nevada will be entitled to a share of the state’s district delegates.[10]

Example: Assume that there are three presidential candidates in the Republican caucuses in Nevada. Candidate A won 48 percent of the vote, Candidate B won 30 percent and Candidate C won 22 percent. Candidate A would receive roughly six of Nevada’s district-level delegates, Candidate B would receive roughly four district delegates, and Candidate C would receive the remaining delegates.

Of the remaining 18 delegates, 15 will serve at-large. At-large delegates will be allocated on a proportional basis; each candidate who wins a percentage of the statewide caucus vote in Nevada will be entitled to a share of the state’s at-large delegates. In addition, three national party leaders (identified on the chart below as RNC delegates) will serve as bound delegates to the Republican National Convention. The RNC delegates will be pledged to support the winner of Nevada’s caucuses.[10]

At the end of the day, the interesting factor will (as always) e the top line popular vote, as the fight between Cruz and Rubio for the most likely candidate to defeat Donald Trump largely rests on PR at this point. Whoever emerges victorious in that count will have a leg up when it comes to Super Tuesday.

John Kasich and Ben Carson will also be present, wasting everyone’s time.