Government

Requests for 'satellite caucuses' could make Iowa 'first-in-the-world'

State Democrats weighing requests that include 6 from overseas

Democratic caucusgoers stand in line Feb. 1, 2016, at Macbride Hall on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. The Iowa Democratic Party this year is considering applications for “satellite” caucuses allowing voters who are unable to participate in the nominating process in person at the designated caucus locations to engage through alternative sites that could include workplaces or senior living centers. (The Gazette)
Democratic caucusgoers stand in line Feb. 1, 2016, at Macbride Hall on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. The Iowa Democratic Party this year is considering applications for “satellite” caucuses allowing voters who are unable to participate in the nominating process in person at the designated caucus locations to engage through alternative sites that could include workplaces or senior living centers. (The Gazette)

“First-in-the-nation” may not accurately describe the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses.

That’s because the Iowa Democratic Party, which plans to incorporate “satellite” caucuses to open the door for more participation in the Feb. 3 party-building exercise, has received applications not only for 103 satellite sites in Iowa, but 47 elsewhere in the country and six for overseas.

“We’re glad that Iowans are interested in hosting satellite caucuses,” the state party said in a statement Monday. “As a party, one of our primary goals is expanding access and participation in our caucus process, and we encourage Iowa Democrats to consider this additional option to have their voices heard.”

The satellite caucuses, which were tried in four locations in 2016, are the state Democratic Party’s response to a Democratic National Committee directive that states with party caucuses instead of primary elections to select presidential candidates find ways of making them more accessible.

In August, the Democratic National Committee rejected a proposal from Iowa Democrats that would have allowed people to participate electronically — saying the virtual events would make the caucuses too vulnerable to hacking.

As a result, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said the satellite option was favored over alternatives that included absentee ballots, proxies, modified virtual caucuses or asking DNC officials to grant Iowa a waiver to the accessibility requirement.

Satellite caucuses will allow voters who are unable to participate in the nominating process in person at the designated caucus locations engage at alternative sites that could include workplaces, senior living centers or other locations if party officials deem a need.

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The state party received 103 applications from across Iowa congressional districts — 28 in the 1st, 18 in the 2nd, 27 in the 3rd and 30 in the 4th district.

Iowans in Florida applied for 10 sites, followed by seven in Arizona and four each in Colorado, Illinois, California and Washington, DC.

Single applications were received from Scotland, Japan, France, Mexico, New Zealand and the Republic of Georgia.

The state party said it needs more information on several applications before they can be considered.

The next step for the state party is for the Satellite Review Committee to consider the applications no later than Dec. 16 with approved locations announced no later than Dec 18.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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