The leaders of Iowa’s two major political parties have joined forces to announce Democrats and Republicans will hold their 2010 Iowa Caucuses on January 23, a Saturday.
Iowa Republican Party executive director Jeff Boeyink says both parties are doing this for one simple reason.
"We want to maximize participation in the Caucuses," he says. "And even though we know there are complications on any date that you pick, the idea was that a Saturday afternoon was probably just about as available on peoples’ schedule as just about anything."
The 2008 Caucuses were held on a Thursday night. The 2010 Iowa Caucuses will start at one o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.
"We’re trying to make ourselves convenient. We want to remove as many barriers to participation as possible," Boeyink says. "Having it on a Saturday afternoon, one of the things we also talked about was the opportunity to have more youth involved."
Basketball games, band concerts, play practices and other school activities often clog up the nighttime schedules for high schoolers during the week, but Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norman Sterzenbach says Saturdays are often free.
"The whole point of this discussion was to figure out ways that we could increase participation in both the Democratic and Republican Party Caucuses," Sterzenbach says. "Saturday afternoon is always talked about as one of those days that Iowans may have more flexibility in their schedule and maybe more able to make a party function, like a Caucus."
The State Central Committees of both political parties endorsed the date for the 2010 Caucuses — the first time in modern history that either party has held the events on a Saturday. For those who practice Judaism, the Sabbath begins at nightfall on Friday and ends Saturday night. Sterzenbach says every day of the week has some sort of challenge associated with it.
"We’re open to ideas, always, on how we can involve more people in the process," Sterzenbach says. "The idea here is not to exclude anyone for any reason."
Both Democrats and Republicans saw record turn-out for the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. In 2010, however, caucus-goers won’t be discussing potential presidential candidates and such "off-year" Caucuses typically attract far fewer participants. Sterzenbach says they’d love to have everyone who attended the 2008 Caucuses show up in January, but it’s unlikely.
"That may be unrealistic without the draw of the presidential campaigns," Sterzenbach says. "But certainly we would like everyone who has participated in the past to come out and be part of their local county activities."
Boeyink says Republicans feel the same way.
"We’ll see how it works," Boeyink says. "…This is just an opportunity in 2010 to try something a little different."
Both men say the decision to hold the 2010 Caucuses on a Saturday has no bearing on the date of the 2012 Caucuses when it’s likely Iowa Republicans will to be choosing from among an array of presidential candidates and Iowa Democrats will be endorsing Barack Obama’s reelection effort.
"This is only about 2010," Sterzenbach says. "Any discussions for 2012 will involve the Democratic National Committee as well as the Iowa Democratic Party."
The Iowa Republican Party’s executive director agrees.
"This decision is a stand-alone," Boeyink says. "2012 decisions will have to be made based on working with our counterparts at the Iowa Democratic Party and us working with our folks at the Republican National Committee."