The Iowa Democratic Party announced it's joining the digital age, adding six "virtual" caucuses in addition to the in-person caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020. One of the biggest complaints about the Iowa caucuses, the nominating contest that kicks off the presidential primary season, has been about accessibility.
Caucusing takes a long time, especially for Democrats. It takes place in the evening, with no set duration, making it difficult for parents with young children or voters who work at night to participate.
On Monday, the Democratic Party unveiled its plan Monday to try and improve the caucuses. "Today, we are setting the stage for the 2020 Iowa caucuses to be the most accessible, transparent, and successful caucuses in our party's history," said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price in a statement.
There will be a 30-day public comment period for Iowans to respond to the new "virtual" caucuses.
On caucus night in Iowa, voters show up to their precincts and divide into groups based on the candidate they prefer. Candidates must have the support of at least 15 percent of the voters present to be viable. Those supporting candidates under the 15-percent threshold must either win over other caucus goers or disband and choose a viable candidate to support.
Based on the final results of the preference vote, each viable candidate receives a proportional number of Iowa's delegates. In prior years, the candidates received a proportional number of county convention delegates, and "state delegate equivalents." The exact delegate selection then continued at the county and state conventions later in the year, before the nominating convention, and generally reflected the presidential preference vote.
The proposed virtual caucuses would be weighted differently than the in-person caucus, accounting for roughly 10 percent of the overall total. The delegates are to be awarded by the congressional district of the participant. And voters cannot participate in both the in-person and the virtual caucus.
"Over the course of six days, registered Democrats who have signed up with the Iowa Democratic Party will be able to participate in one of six virtual caucuses by phone or smart device. Virtual caucus-goers will be able to rank up to five choices for president," the party explained in a press release on Monday.
The party also addressed a concern from the 2016 Democratic Party, about the influence of superdelegates on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's delegate total at the Democratic National Convention. The new rules laid out by the Iowa Democratic Party allocate delegates based on the results of the caucus night, and not as a result of the local and state convention process.
National Democrats also voted in August to Superdelegates – members of the Democratic National Committee, elected officials, and other party elders who are allowed to support any presidential nominee they choose – will now be barred from voting on the first ballot to select the nominee at the 2020 Democratic convention unless a candidate has already earned enough pledged delegates through the state caucus and primary elections to secure the nomination.in the 2020 presidential election.
The first primary takes place in New Hampshire in early February, after the Iowa caucuses.
Caitlin Huey-Burns and Rebecca Kaplan contributed reporting