Iowa Democrats hope changes help it salvage leadoff caucuses

·2 min read

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — In a last-ditch effort to salvage their leadoff presidential selection position, Iowa Democrats are proposing two key changes that they hope will increase participation and avoid the chaos that marred their 2020 caucuses.

One change would allow Iowa Democrats to submit presidential preference cards by mail or in person before caucus night. Critics have long argued that the caucuses, held in the dead of winter at the dawn of a presidential election year, have prevented older adults, disabled people and shift workers from being able to take part.

The second change would eliminate the rule that required a candidate to receive support from at least 15% of the participants at any of the more than 1,600 caucus precincts. The rule forced supporters of candidates who didn’t meet the threshold to find a different candidate or remain uncommitted, a confusing procedure — especially amid heavy turnout.

“This proposal allows us to grow the Iowa Democratic Party and keep our position on the nominating calendar,” state Republican Party Chair Ross Wilburn said Friday. “By expanding our caucus process to include a window of non-present participation, we will be able to engage with more Iowans than ever before.”

The changes were included in state party officials' application to the Democratic National Committee’s rule and bylaws committee to be considered the kickoff nominating state in 2024. Iowa Democrats had long been automatically granted the leadoff spot but were forced this year to apply after the 2020 caucuses descended into chaos.

In 2020, a new smartphone app designed to calculate and report results failed, prompting a telephone backlog that prevented the party from reporting final results for nearly a week after the Feb. 3 contest.

The Associated Press announced it was unable to declare a winner after irregularities and inconsistencies marred the results. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders finished essentially tied for the lead, although Joe Biden went on to win the nomination and later the White House.

State party officials hope to be among the finalists invited to make their appeal in person in June.

The DNC has said it is prioritizing diversity, competitiveness and feasibility in its early voting state selection. That could make it difficult for Iowa to retain its spot. National Democrats have long complained that Iowa, which is more than 90% white, doesn't reflect the diversity of the country, and the state hasn’t been competitive for Democrats in recent years.

Thomas Beaumont, The Associated Press

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