DES MOINES, Iowa — Since 1972, Iowa Democrats have had the privilege of hosting their precinct caucuses before all other states in the country. Wednesday, party leaders sent a letter pledging that they will make changes to the half-century tradition as a way to try to remain first-in-the-nation in 2024.
Last month, the D.N.C. stripped Iowa of its special status and made it compete with other states hoping to lead off the process in 2024.
“We recognize that caucuses need to change with the times,” the letter signed by Chairman Ross Wilburn states to the Democratic National Committee. “What worked in 1976 is not the best practice for a 21st-century democracy. Our state law mandates that the parties hold caucuses at least eight days prior to any primary, however, it is not prescriptive as to how those caucuses must be conducted. We intend to reform those procedures to ensure that they are accessible and straightforward.”
The Iowa Caucuses face criticism like, perhaps, they have never faced before. In 2020, the phone app that the party used–at the recommendation of the D.N.C.–failed to work properly and volunteers struggled to enter the candidates’ precinct results. That caused chaos for party leaders as people across the country waited for days for the results. Some party leaders no longer want Iowa Democrats to go first. However, Republicans have committed to keeping Iowa’s GOP caucuses to remain first in 2024.
Most states no longer use a caucus system and choose a primary instead.
Iowa DNC member Scott Brennan, a former state party chair, suggested several changes that could be under consideration. “Simplify the process,” Brennan said.
He said that the party could rid of the complicated process where a candidate needs to earn at least 15% of support at a local precinct to earn delegates and also no longer require participants to attend in person. But Brennan also reminded people that the party’s ruling governing body, the State Central Committee, will have to agree on any changes before the party makes it formal presentation to D.N.C. members in June.
They expect a final decision in August from the D.N.C. on which states get to begin the presidential selection process in 2024.
Nearly nine in ten Iowa residents are white, a subject of criticism from activists in other states who demand a more diverse state. But Wilburn wants party leaders to consider Iowa’s diversity as part of a whole when combined with the three other early-voting states (New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina).
His letter states that those four states, “represent an intentionally well-designed balance of our party’s values and priorities, and that taken together, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”