Iowa caucuses won’t have virtual caucus after DNC scraps plan
Iowa Democrats said Friday they are not giving up on making the 2020 presidential caucuses more accessible, telling an arm of the Democratic National Committee they are exploring alternatives to their now-rejected virtual caucus proposal.
The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee formally voted down the telecaucus proposal during a conference call Friday afternoon. The Iowa Democratic Party had worked for months to craft and present the proposal to let registered Democrats participate in Iowa’s caucuses over the phone in the six days leading up to Feb. 3, 2020.
Even after the formal rejection, it’s unclear how either the national party or Iowa intends to proceed.
More: DNC recommends scrapping Iowa’s virtual caucuses. Iowa Democratic Party chair insists Iowa will still be first
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Members of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws committee indicated Friday they would be willing to waive the DNC’s requirement for caucus states to provide some form of absentee-style participation in 2020, if Iowa asked.
Iowa representatives have not requested such a waiver.
Campaigns and public ‘need to know the rules’
During the conference call, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said he still believes in the potential of virtual caucuses but acknowledged that without the support of the DNC, he must explore other options.
“There’s four months between now and when Iowans head to the caucus sites,” he said. “We know that campaigns need the rules. We know that the public needs the rules. Quite frankly, we know that our voters need these rules, and we’re working with all the expediency to see what options may exist to be able to expand accessibility in our caucus process.”
The committee will meet within the next 14 days “to take action on an updated proposal from Iowa.”
“I know that the Iowa party and Chair Price are committed to exploring any other option available,” DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee Co-Chair Jim Roosevelt said. “I expect that they will come back to this committee within a very reasonable period of time with other options, if they can prepare them.”
New Hampshire looms
Committee members also alluded to Iowa’s unique challenge in crafting a participation plan to let people participate in the caucuses without being in a caucus site on Feb. 3: New Hampshire’s status as the first primary state.
New Hampshire law allows its secretary of state to change the date of its primary so that it precedes any other state’s primary by at least one week. As long as Iowa holds a caucus and not a primary, it can maintain its coveted position as “first in the nation,” ahead of New Hampshire and other early-voting states.
Iowa had focused on crafting a proposal that met the DNC’s guidelines and also kept it from looking too much like a primary. Absentee ballots, for instance, may have touched off New Hampshire’s “first in the nation” defense.
Ultimately, though, the DNC said it was convinced that a telecaucus system like the one Iowa was proposing created too much of a security risk and could be too easily manipulated by bad actors.
With that proposal formally scrapped, Iowa Democrats are now looking for other ways to satisfy both parties.
“We are continuing those conversations, and we will have more updates in the coming days,” Price said in a statement. “But I remain as confident as ever that the first-in-the-nation Iowa Democratic caucuses will be the most successful in our history.”
Politics reporter Katie Akin contributed to this report.
Brianne Pfannenstiel is Chief Politics Reporter for the Register. Reach her at email@example.com or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at @brianneDMR.