The Iowa Caucus in Two Minutes

Last night marked the first caucus of the 2012 election with a very close race between candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, with Romney eventually winning by eight votes. In the days leading up to the event, TIME had been tracking the Iowa caucus through reporting—and of course—photographs, as photographer Brendan Hoffman worked tirelessly to document the process in Iowa, which is well known for its corn and the home state of candidate Michele Bachmann, who finished sixth.

Brendan Hoffman—Prime for TIME

A poll worker collects ballots at a caucus site at Summit Middle School on Tuesday, January 3, 2012 in Johnston, IA.

“Iowa’s first-to-vote-status dates to 1972,” TIME’s own Michael Crowley cited in a recent post on Swampland,  “when a quirk in Democratic Party rules scheduled its caucuses ahead of the New Hampshire primary, which had opened the presidential nominating process since 1920. Republicans followed suit four years later. Iowa’s political establishment quickly found that it enjoyed all the attention and economic activity that came with going first, and enshrined into state law a mandate that Iowa vote at least eight days before any other state.”

Still, most of us have never been to the Iowa caucus, which is why we’d like to take you inside to see what happens on the night. On Tuesday, LightBox set up at a busy location inside Summit Middle School located in Johnston, Iowa, where Hoffman put his camera on a tripod and intervalometer to automatically record the scene every few seconds.  Hoffman also covered the room, shooting short vignettes and recording audio. All this to create a series of photos that we present here in a time lapse showing one caucus in two minutes and four seconds.

Brendan Hoffman is a D.C. based photographer with Prime Collective. You can see the best of Brendan Hoffman’s work from Iowa on Swampland: Battle for Iowa: The Final Days of the Caucus Campaign in Photos.

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