Help Us Demystify the Election Process

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
Caitlin Cadieux / The Atlantic

This week, we launched a video series tied to The Atlantic’s election coverage, affectionately known as 2016 Distilled.

I’m pretty excited about the possibilities here: Our goal for the video series is to boil down some unnecessarily wonky aspects of the U.S. election process—because, frankly, it’s six shades of impenetrable for those of us who weren’t poli-sci majors (🙋).

Each episode, I’ll be sitting down with Atlantic staffers and outside experts for some help interpreting the major election checkpoints and dynamics in the coming year.

For the record, and to reassure the concerned readers we heard from during our call-out in November: I’m more interested in empowering voters with insight on these concepts rather than having our editors and reporters join the hordes of talking heads offering their hot takes. My hope is for these to be like an ongoing study guide to help people know what to listen for throughout this election year, and what to do with the polls, platforms, and outcomes.

This week’s episode featured Priscilla, assistant politics editor, laying out what actually happens during the Iowa caucus—taking us inside the room(s) where it happens, if you will.

We’re aiming to produce these pretty frequently throughout this election cycle. So I’d love your help brainstorming future episodes. Let me re-up that call for questions: What else can we untangle? What are the cryptic election terms and processes you hear thrown around casually, but aren’t totally sure what they are?

Tell us using this short online form, or shoot us an email at