If you live in one of these states and plan to participate in selection of the Republican presidential nominee, congratulations:
Iowa, Nevada, Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, Hawaii, Maine, Kansas, Nebraska, Maine, and Wyoming
You live in a caucus state. The media will report that you went to a caucus rather than a polling place and registered your vote for the candidate of your choice.
Indeed, there will be a straw poll ballot with the familiar candidates listed (and a bunch you've probably never heard of). Feel free to fill this ballot out and forget about it. This ballot means less than nothing.
You see, amid all the hand waving and “look over here” distractions about “does this caucus mean anything?” you're not supposed to pay attention to the real purpose of the caucus. The real purpose of a caucus is to nominate delegates to the next higher caucus.
Your breakout group (probably precinct) will vote amongst you for a number of delegates to represent your group at a convention (either county or state). This is the ballot you need to pay attention to.
When the straw poll ballot leaves your hand, you do not know whether it was counted in the number reported to the media or not. But, your vote for the delegates is marked, collected, and counted right in front of you!
Oh, did I mention that the delegates to the next higher convention are the people who vote for the delegates to the state convention? And, the delegates to the state convention are the people who vote for the delegates to the national convention?
It's great if your candidate gets the straw poll win and the corporate sponsorships that go with it, but within your state, it is absolutely meaningless unless you follow the entire process through to the state convention and beyond.
The only caucus ballot that has any significance whatsoever is the ballot for the delegates to the next higher caucus. Insist that the ballot is counted and reported within your breakout group, and follow the election of delegates to ensure the delegates elected from your group are the only representatives of your precinct admitted to the next higher caucus.