© 2023 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Iowa Democratic Party is proposing big changes to its caucuses to keep the state early in the calendar

John Pemble
IPR File

It comes as the Democratic National Committee has asked states to apply to go first in an effort to revamp the process. Iowa is among more than a dozen states that have applied.

The Iowa Democratic Party is proposing big fundamental changes to its caucuses in an effort to keep the contest in the early window of states that pick presidential nominees. It comes as the Democratic National Committee has asked states to apply to go first in an effort to revamp the process. Iowa is among more than a dozen states that have applied.

Later this month, Iowa Democrats will make a case to a national committee that sets the calendar.

Under the proposal, a caucus-goer would request a presidential preference card. An Iowan would receive the card in the mail and they would have 14 to 28 days to either mail it back or return it in person.

“This also means that we are proposing the elimination of realignment so that each caucus-goer would express a preference for only one candidate,” Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn said.

Rep. Ross Wilburn, D-Ames, announces with other sponsoring legislators the More Pefect Union plan. It has the goal of preventing violence between law enforcement and residents. 6/4/2020 Photo by John Pemble
John Pemble
IPR file
Iowa Democratic Party chair Rep. Ross Wilburn, D-Ames, seen here in June 2020 on the steps of the Iowa Capitol.

Critics have slammed the caucuses for years because it’s much different than a primary election and the events are hard for people to attend. There is a state law in Iowa that says it must hold its caucus before any primary in the country. Wilburn said this proposed plan gives the party an opportunity to reach more Iowans than ever before.

“A single parent who may have not had access because of childcare or a worker on the third shift at John Deere would now be able to take part in our caucus process and have their voice heard,” Wilburn said.

Wilburn notes this would make caucus night focus primarily on conducting party business. The proposal also says the state party would contract with a DNC approved election vendor or election offices like a county auditor or the secretary of state to ensure a fair and trustworthy process.

The desire to rework the calendar comes following a disastrous 2020 Democratic caucus night when a smart phone app meant to make reporting the results easier failed and delayed the results for days.

Earlier this year, members of the DNC Rules and Bylaws committee saidthey want to favor more competitive and diverse states and primaries elections instead of caucuses going forward. Wilburn says the application also highlights those issues.

“We highlight the growing diverse communities in Iowa and the complex political issues in urban and rural areas.” Wilburn said. “I've talked about rural communities, public schools, our significant Latinx communities and the distribution between the different parts of the state. That’s an opportunity for the presidential candidates to engage with rural voters and a broad swath of diversity.”

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee plan to announce the recommendation of a calendar later this summer.

Meanwhile, it’s game on for the Republicans in Iowa. The committee that sets the calendar for the Republican National Committee has kept things status quo for 2024 and potential candidates have already beentesting the waters in recent months.

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.