116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa’s future as the first state where Democrats cast their preference for president will likely be decided this week.
The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet Thursday through Saturday in Washington, D.C., and the committee is expected to vote on the party’s presidential nominating calendar, potentially knocking Iowa off the first-in-the-nation spot it has held for half a century. The committee will make a recommendation to the full DNC at the party’s next meeting.
While a vote on the calendar is expected to come up, Scott Brennan, an Iowan who sits on the rules committee, said the committee has not yet received an agenda for this week’s meeting.
Iowa’s caucuses have led the pack in presidential preference contests for both parties since 1972, drawing media attention and millions of dollars in campaigning from presidential hopefuls.
This year, the national Democrats’ rules committee voted to open up the early window, requiring states to apply if they want to hold a presidential primary or caucus before the first Tuesday in March. The current early states are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Iowa is among 16 states and Puerto Rico that applied this summer to be in the early window. The DNC will select up to five states that will be allowed to hold contests early. The rules committee said it would favor states that are diverse, competitive in the general election, and can run transparent and accessible contests. Iowa is around 85 percent white and has been trending increasingly Republican in recent elections.
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn, who will attend the rules committee meeting, said in an email statement Tuesday that Iowa would allow rural representation and an even playing field for candidates seeking the presidential nomination.
“It is (clearer) than ever that DC Democrats cannot forget about entire groups of voters in the heart of the Midwest without doing significant damage to the party for a generation,” he said. “Iowa is also the only Midwest state under consideration that can back up the claim that we are an inexpensive opportunity to lesser-known candidates who do not have immediate name recognition.”
Wilburn noted Iowa’s media markets are cheaper than those in Minnesota and Michigan — which also applied to hold early contests — and the state offers campaigns access to urban, suburban and rural voters.
Most Iowans agree that the caucuses should remain first, according to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll from October. According to the poll, 53 percent of Iowans said it would be best if Iowa goes first, while 26 percent said it would be best if another state goes first, and 21 percent were not sure.
Calls to remove Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status intensified after the 2020 caucuses when administrative issues and a malfunctioning app led to a delay in results.
Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee voted to keep the party’s calendar intact, meaning Iowa will lead the pack for the Republican calendar, followed by New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Democratic caucuses would evolve
In its bid to remain in the early window, Iowa Democrats proposed an overhaul to the caucuses that would allow for early participation both in person and by mail, structuring the selection process like a straw poll without multiple rounds of caucusing.
Preference selections would take place entirely before the caucus night. On caucus night, officials would announce the results and attendants would elect delegates to county conventions.
In past years, caucusgoers could change their preference over multiple rounds and a candidate would need 15 percent support to receive delegates. The 15 percent threshold still would be in place under the new rules, but realignment would not take place.
The party plans to contract with an outside group or state and county election officials to administer the caucus, rather than rely on volunteers within the party.
“This is the most straightforward, inclusive and open process, among any of the states being considered for the early window,” Wilburn said.