116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa Democrats have announced some big changes to their presidential caucuses, but it may be too late to save their first-in-the-nation status.
The rules and bylaws committee of the national Democratic Party has opened the door to changing the presidential nomination process, asking states that seek to be at the front of the pack to submit applications. Twenty states have done so this month. The shakeup comes after a series of problems marred the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses, delaying results and producing no clear winner.
Democrats nationally have been critical of Iowa’s caucuses for years. They point to the state’s lack of diversity and an archaic, complicated caucus process that splits caucusgoers into preference groups, sets a candidate viability threshold at 15 percent support and tabulates results not as votes but as state delegate equivalents. If you don’t attend a caucus, you can’t participate, leaving out shift workers, disabled Iowans and others who can’t make it to a long political meeting.
That all changes under a plan proposed by Iowa Democrats. In the weeks leading up to the caucuses, Democrats would vote through presidential preference cards, either by mail or at drop boxes. The results of that straw poll would be announced on caucus night.
These are good changes. Simplifying the process and allowing more accessibility to the caucuses address two of the caucuses’ biggest problems. It would likely increase participation, which should be a key goal for a party that has battled back against Republican efforts to restrict voting rights.
But it may not be enough to save Iowa Democrats’ traditional place at the front of the line. The rules and bylaws Committee is not only looking for states with simple, straightforward and accessible voting processes. It wants demographic diversity and competitiveness in the general election.
Iowa Democrats argue that the state is becoming more diverse. But they can’t argue past the fact that Iowa has largely become red state, voting for Donald Trump twice and with total GOP control of the Statehouse. Since Iowa no longer appears to be a winnable swing state for Democrats, there’s less to be gained from starting the nomination process here.
But regardless of whether Iowa clings to the leadoff spot or tumbles down the calendar, Democrats should stick with these proposed changes. Making the caucuses simpler and more accessible are worthy outcomes, even if the candidates and national media don’t come to stand in front of our hay bales and cornfields.
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