DES MOINES, Iowa–Can’t show up in person to take part in the 2020 Iowa Caucuses or would rather not? No problem. No excuse necessary. You could phone it in under new rules announced Tuesday afternoon by the Iowa Democratic Party. It’s part of the most sweeping changes to Iowa’s revered political competition since the modern format of the Caucuses in 1972.
“We are going to be able to give more Iowans a chance to participate,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said, “if someone is a shift worker, a single parent, in the military, living overseas, who experience mobility issues. This process will now give these individuals a voice for selecting the next president of the United States.”
Price said the party will hold a series of six “virtual caucuses” where Iowans can participate by phone to select their preference for president if they are unable to attend the Caucuses at their local precinct site on February 3, 2020, the tentative scheduled night.
Schedule of virtual caucuses
January 29 – 7:00 p.m.
January 30 – 12:00 p.m.
January 31 – 7:30 a.m.
February 1 – 10:00 a.m.
February 2 – 2:00 p.m.
February 3 – 7:00 p.m.
Price said the virtual caucuses will count for ten percent of the delegates earned by candidates–regardless of how many Iowans take part this way–and will be grouped by the participants’ Congressional district where they live. Results from precinct caucus sites will make up the remaining 90 percent of delegates.
The party would report the results separately. It is possible that one candidate wins the virtual caucuses and someone else wins the most support on Caucus night.
Virtual caucus participants can also rank their top five preferred candidates in case their top choice doesn’t receive enough overall support and isn’t considered viable (which usually means that candidate didn’t earn at least 15% in that designated precinct).
Price acknowledges a more limited virtual caucus in 2016 didn’t attract much participation. He estimated that 20-30 Iowans took part in a tele-caucus set aside for military members and fewer than 100 participated in satellite caucus locations. But he expects far more Iowans to take part in the 2020 virtual caucuses, as they provide six different opportunities.
He also announced a new procedure which allows a candidate to request a recount of the results. In 2016, some supporters complained that Hillary Clinton’s narrow victory over Bernie Sanders should have warranted a recount to make sure volunteers at local precinct sites accurately tabulated the results. But the party lacked any official mechanism to do that.
Iowa Democrats State Central Committee and Democratic National Committee still need to approve the proposed changes for 2020.