DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Democratic Party received conditional approval from the Democratic National Committee for its backup plan to the virtual caucuses, just two weeks after calling them off due to security concerns.
The party’s Plan B? Satellite caucuses.
Democrats can now apply to hold “satellite caucuses” in locations of their choosing on Feb. 3, 2020. The DNC rules and bylaws committee concluded this option still fulfills the party’s goal of increasing participation and expanding accessibility.
For Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price, he can now take a quick breather and shift back his focus to the actual election.
“Now we can just get back to the work we’ve been doing, which is making sure our caucuses will be a success,” he said.
Just like precinct caucuses, each satellite location will have a trained captain who has pledged neutrality and is in charge of oversight and reporting the results. Satellite sites can include nursing homes, factories or any other community gathering places where groups otherwise might have difficulty going to their precinct caucus. Iowans living out of state, like members of the military, will also be able to form their own satellite caucus as well.
Price said the party ran a pilot version in 2016, which was successful, and he sees this as a solution going forward to the next election cycle.
“I don’t think it’s a Band-Aid. I think this is actually a great mechanism which will allow more people to have their voice be heard in our process. That’s why we proposed it,” he said.
However, critics and analysts worry this solution is just a temporary fix. Chuck Todd, the political director and host of NBC’s Meet The Press told Channel 13 News he is unsure if satellite caucuses will fully address the accessibility issue.
“I think their better shot is to expand the caucuses to a second day. Make it both Sunday and Monday,” Todd said. “What they’re devising now is only a recipe to get a Band-Aid to get it through this year, but it’s not enough to save the caucuses if you’re thinking about the long term.”
In response to Todd’s analysis of the plan, Price said the Iowa caucuses won’t be going away anytime soon.
“Every four years someone predicts the demise of the Iowa caucuses and every four years Iowa remains first,” Price said. “The reason we do is because this process creates better candidates and it creates winning candidates.”
Iowans looking to hold a satellite caucus must apply by Nov. 18. Price also announced the party will hire a caucus accessibility director, two accessibility organizers and outreach directors to African American, Latino and labor Democrats.