Iowa Democrats ask DNC to reconsider caucuses after two states missed deadline

By: - January 6, 2023 2:36 pm

Iowa Democrats continue to fight for the first-in-the-nation status of the Iowa Caucuses. (Illustration via Canva)

The Iowa Democratic Party renewed calls for the Democratic National Committee to let Iowa keep its first-in-the-nation caucuses after Georgia and New Hampshire missed a key deadline in the process for changing the early state lineup.

The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee in December granted conditional waivers to South Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia and Michigan to hold their primaries earlier than other states.

But there are several more steps before that proposed calendar is finalized. The five states were required to submit a letter to the committee Jan. 5 showing that their state’s leaders had taken steps toward changing the dates of their primaries. New Hampshire had an additional requirement of showing they were taking steps to make early voting more accessible. If states did not send the letter, they would give up their ability to hold a DNC-approved early contest.

A letter from rules committee co-chairs Jim Roosevelt and Minyon Moore, sent to panel members late Thursday, said New Hampshire and Georgia were unable to meet that deadline. The chairs recommended the states be granted a deadline extension, and wrote that the committee will meet soon to discuss the extensions before the early February meeting of the DNC to vote on the proposed calendar.

In response to the missed deadlines, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn sent a letter to the DNC Friday which requested consideration for a conditional waiver.

“The Iowa Democratic Party believes that, with two states apparently unable to meet the criteria set forth as conditions of a waiver, within the timeline set forth by this committee, we have a compelling case to be granted a conditional waiver for a pre-window contest,” Wilburn wrote.

Because the Iowa caucuses are run by the state party, the state’s contests can be altered to meet DNC rules and specifications in a way that state-run primaries cannot, Wilburn wrote.

In an earlier bid for consideration of an early state spot, the Iowa Democrats proposed major changes to the Iowa caucus system, turning it from an in-person, multistep process to a vote-by-mail contest, in which participants only select their top choice to support. While the party will continue to work within state law, Wilburn wrote, the party-run caucuses have more flexibility to meet DNC expectations than other states’ contests may have.

But DNC leaders have not indicated plans to consider other states for the proposed calendar. Roosevelt and Moore wrote that they remained “committed to seeing out the calendar that this committee approved last month,” according to reports from CNN.

New Hampshire ‘unable’ to meet DNC requirements

But meeting the DNC’s requirements, even if an extension is granted, could prove difficult for New Hampshire and Georgia. New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley wrote in a letter to the rules committee Thursday that their state party was unable to meet the DNC’s requirements as they are unable to change state law mandating they hold the first primary in the nation. Republicans, who control the state legislature, will not be willing to change the primary date law, nor be willing to make the changes to New Hampshire’s early voting process that the DNC requested.

“New Hampshire Republicans, who control the governorship and both houses in the state legislature, have repeatedly shown their hostility to expanding voting laws,” Buckley wrote.

While Georgia’s primary date is set by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, his office ruled out the idea of holding the party primaries on separate dates, and said any changes would need to be equitable to both parties, Politico reported.

Iowa is staying first in the Republican nominating process in the upcoming presidential election cycle. Wilburn said that Republicans in Iowa have used the DNC’s decision to “feed the narrative that Democrats have turned their back on Iowa and rural America.”

“Small rural states like Iowa must have a voice in our Presidential nominating process,” Wilburn wrote. “Democrats cannot forget about entire groups of voters in the heart of the Midwest without doing significant damage to the party for a generation.”

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations. They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register's Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa's 4th District elections.

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