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National Democrats Reject Iowa's Phone-Based Virtual Caucus Plan

troy price
Clay Masters/IPR file
Iowa Public Radio
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price speaks to reporters Aug. 30.

Iowa Democrats will not have phone-based virtual caucuses in 2020 after national Democratic officials voted Friday to reject the state party’s plan for absentee caucus participation.

The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee vote follows a recommendation that came last week from top DNC officials. They said security experts believe there is no teleconference system available that meets their standards for cybersecurity and reliability.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price told the RBC he is disappointed, but the state party is still trying to find a way to allow for absentee participation.

“We are—over the last week and continuing today and in the days ahead—continuing to look at what options might be available to us given the timeframe that’s left,” Price said. “We know there’s not a lot of time left. There’s 4.5 months between now and when Iowans head to the caucus sites.”

He noted preparation is going well for the IDP’s traditional in-person caucuses.

According to Price, the state party has been working on developing virtual caucuses for more than a year.

They were trying to fulfill a new requirement by the DNC that caucus states allow for absentee participation.

Now that DNC has rejected plans from Iowa and Nevada, national party officials indicated they would likely grant a waiver to the two states, allowing them to not comply with the absentee participation requirement for 2020.

But RBC Co-Chair Jim Roosevelt said he has yet to receive a waiver request from Iowa. He said the RBC should meet again in the next two weeks to consider any new proposals from Iowa.

RBC member Elaine Kamarck said the DNC needs to be extra careful with states early in the presidential nominating process. She said it would be unwise to use a system that has never been used and has raised concerns among tech security experts.

“This does not mean we are retreating from our goal of greater participation in caucus states…But it does mean that we will have to wait for another day when we have more experience protecting our democracy from malicious actors,” Kamarck said.

A clear majority of the committee voted to reject Iowa’s and Nevada’s virtual caucus plans.

Three members voted no, including Scott Brennan, former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. Members from New Hampshire and South Carolina, both early primary states, were the other no votes.

Some Iowans fear the rejection of the Iowa Democratic Party’s virtual caucus plan could eventually lead to Iowa losing its first-in-the-nation status in the presidential nominating process.

The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 3.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter