The Iowa Democratic Party is unveiling its ideas for expanding participation in the Iowa Caucuses, including a “tele-Caucus” for soldiers on active duty and a process for petitioning to establish new Caucus precincts for shift workers.
“I think that what we’re proposing today keeps within the spirit of the Iowa Caucuses, meaning, that it’s still a gathering of neighbors in their communities to talk about what’s best for the future of their state and the future of their country,” says Norm Sterzenbach, who has been working on the Iowa Democratic Party’s Caucus expansion project. “All of the proposals that we’re putting together still involve Caucus-goers getting together and having that discussion.”
Critics of the Iowa Caucuses have complained some workers can’t get time off to attend the precinct-level meetings, which are typically held on a weekday evening. The Iowa Democratic Party is floating the idea of a “satellite caucus system” for Iowans who cannot participate in the Caucuses because of problems with “mobility, distance or time.” Sterzenbach says the criteria for where those Caucuses could be held has not been finalized, but the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee would make the final decision on granting those requests to set up satellite precincts for caucusing.
“Let’s say that you’ve got a group of workers at the John Deere plant in Waterloo and they’re working second shift at the time of the Caucuses and they’re not able to attend because they’re at work,” Sterzenbach says. “They could petition the Iowa Democratic Party to have a Caucus site at the John Deere plant. Assuming they meet the criteria, we would work with them and the John Deere plant on finding a location within the facility that makes it easy for them to go to a Caucus over a break or lunch or whatever the timing works out to be.”
This is similar to the precincts set up for shift workers along the Las Vegas strip for the state of Nevada’s Caucuses. However, Sterzenbach stresses the Iowa Democratic Party’s proposal would have those satellite Caucuses happening at the same time as Democrats are gathering at their local precinct for the Caucuses.
“We’re still figuring out all the details,” Sterzenbach says, “but the guiding principle that we’re working on is all these Caucuses will take place at the same time as traditional precinct Caucuses, which is currently scheduled for a Monday night at 7 p.m.”
The 2016 Iowa Caucuses are currently scheduled for Monday, February 1st. The Iowa Democratic Party is proposing a “tele-Caucus” for soldiers who are on active duty, allowing them to electronically participate in a Caucus.
“The idea that we’re looking at is really to keep it as simple as possible,” Sterzenbach says. “We’re looking at using conference call technology and it being audio rather than chat or video.”
Iowa Democrats also pledge to push for a state law that would require Iowa employers “to let non-essential workers take time off to attend their precinct caucus.”
Iowa Democratic Party chairman Scott Brennan will present these proposals to the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws panel today. Sterzenbach says the details will be “fine-tuned” after more discussion and input.
The Iowa Democratic Party’s state central committee will vote on a final Caucus expansion plan and it will be submitted to the Democratic National Committee next year as part of the party’s delegate selection plan. Iowa Democrats start their delegate selection process at the precinct Caucuses and the winner of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Caucuses is determined by how many delegates each candidate wins. Iowa Republicans hold a straw poll vote on Caucus Night and those results have no bearing on how many delegates a candidate ultimately wins.