In today’s New York Times, Iowan Gilbert Cranberg (a past CJR contributor) and two co-authors have an excellent op-ed explaining how, uh, idiosyncratic caucus voting is for Iowa Democrats.

The gist is that each precinct caucus functions something like a mini-electoral college, except that the raw popular votes—the direct measure of who individual Iowans actually trudged out to support—are forever secret. And these numbers could vary widely from the delegate counts, which are widely reported.

Bet ya didn’t know that. As Cranberg et al point out, the caucus-lovin’ press have been the Democrats’ “silent partners” in this peculiar, opaque, and undemocratic process.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.