How Democrats Are Expanding Access To The Iowa Caucus

Andy McGuire speaks to the press following her win

Guest Post from IDP Chair Andy McGuire

The Democratic Party is proud to be the party of inclusion. We believe that our party, our state and our country are strongest when everyone has a seat at the table and has an opportunity to shape the future.

Here at the Iowa Democratic Party, we have been hard at work to make sure that our caucuses reflect the values our party holds dear.

One of the things that makes that Iowa caucuses so special is that Iowans come together with their neighbors at the same time and the same place to discuss the future of our country. But we had heard valid concerns over the years that the format of the caucuses made it difficult, if not impossible, for certain Iowans to participate. We take our status as the first-in-the-nation very seriously, and we were committed to improving the caucuses while also preserving what makes them such an amazing example of democracy.

That’s why beginning in 2014, we set out on a mission to expand Iowans’ participation in our caucuses. After many discussions with Democratic leaders and activists across the state, we are thrilled this year to be moving forward with caucus expansion initiatives that we believe will only make the great caucus process even better.

Tele-Caucus: It is a testament to the character of our state that so many Iowans make the decision to serve our country in the military. However, often times their service takes them out of Iowa on caucus night, which in the past meant they would be unable to participate in the caucuses. That’s why the Iowa Democratic Party made it a top priority this year to ensure those who courageously protect our freedoms could have the opportunity to have their voice heard in choosing the next leader of our country.

I was so proud last week to announce that the party would be holding the first ever Iowa Democratic Tele-Caucus. The Tele-Caucus will be open to members of our military serving outside Iowa, either in the United States or abroad, as well as Iowans who are currently living abroad and covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting (UOCAVA) Act. Beyond members of the military, this includes military family members living abroad, Iowa students studying abroad, and members of the Peace Corps and Diplomatic Corps.

The Tele-Caucus will take place at the same date and time, February 1 at 7pm CST, as the precinct caucuses.

Here’s how the Tele-Caucus process will work: Military members serving outside Iowa and Iowans who are living abroad can sign up for the Tele-Caucus by going to our website: www.iowademocrats.org/telecaucus. Registration for the Tele-Caucus will be open until January 6, 2016.

The IDP will confirm each participant is registered to vote in the state of Iowa, or inform the person that he/she needs to register. One week before the Tele-Caucus, all verified participants will receive a phone number and personalized PIN # to participate in the Tele-Caucus.

On caucus night, the Tele-Caucus will run nearly identically to our precinct caucuses. Participants will be able to align with a candidate, or to an uncommitted group, by pressing a number on their phone, and there will also be a realignment process. Two state delegates will be awarded via the Tele-Caucus.

Satellite Caucuses: We had also long heard concerns at the party that it was very difficult for some Iowans, specifically Iowans with limited means of mobility or Iowans on the job at night, to participate in the caucus.

Once again, we heard those concerns loud and clear. And that’s why for the first time ever, the Iowa Democratic Party will be holding satellite caucus locations for Iowa Democrats who are unable to participate in their precinct caucus due to a hardship (limited to distance, mobility or time).

Satellite caucuses will take place at the same date and time, February 1 at 7pm CST, as the precinct caucuses, and will also be run in much the same way.

For several months now, we have been collecting and reviewing satellite caucus applications submitted through our website, and are now in the process of finalizing our first satellite caucus locations.

Both of these caucus expansion initiatives represent a major step forward for the IDP in making our caucus process as inclusive as possible. While our nearly 1,700 precinct caucus locations (find yours here!) will remain the core of the Iowa caucuses, we will always be on the lookout for ways to innovate and improve. We are looking forward to a great caucus night on February 1!

 

by Andy McGuire
Posted 12/15/15

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