Iowa Democrats approve 2024 caucus delegation plan

By: - June 3, 2023 1:13 pm

The Iowa Democratic Party has unanimously approved a 2024 caucus plan, including mail-in presidential preference cards. (Photo illustration via Canva)

The Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee unanimously approved its draft delegate selection plan for the 2024 Iowa caucuses without alterations on Saturday.

State party leaders introduced the 62-page delegate selection plan in May. The plan, which moves the party to a presidential preference card system and allows participants to receive and return cards by mail, will now be submitted to and reviewed by the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee. 

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart said in a statement following the meeting that she was pleased with the party’s leaders understanding the need for “flexibility surrounding” the selection plan as the presidential nominating calendar is “in flux.”

“Iowa Democrats are united in moving forward with the most inclusive caucus process in our history,” she said. “No matter what, we will continue to do what’s best for Iowa, what’s best for our Party and what’s best for democracy.” 

Prakash Kopparapu, chair of the party’s Asian/Pacific Islander Caucus, said he was also excited about the unity the party currently has with its inclusivity efforts. He said the party is moving “full throttle” ahead to help the voices of Iowans be heard. 

“We are marching forward as the first-in-the-nation caucus and we will have a lot more inclusivity and participation with mail-in ballot options,” he said. “There is every reason to, and we are trying every way to actually increase participation within the communities that we are representing. Within the state of Iowa, there will be increased participation in the caucus.”

Concerns about new caucus law

On June 1, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed House File 716 into law. The legislation requires political parties to hold caucuses in person. During a committee meeting on the bill, Hart called the legislation partisan, saying its one purpose is to “interfere in our caucus process.”

“It is my solid belief that one political party cannot tell another political party what to do or how to conduct its business,” she said. “So, I remain committed to doing what’s best for Iowa Democrats, for the state of Iowa, and for democracy. I’ve had many conversations with many of you. I know that we are all committed in that effort.”

Ed Cranston, chair of the Johnson County Democratic Party and committee rules co-chair, said he was not surprised that the law passed by Republicans, and he is concerned about the limits it continues to place on the caucus process.

“The Republicans don’t care or are not thinking about inclusion,” he said. “But, for me, I’m thinking about my 99-year-old mother-in-law who cares about our government and our elections and she would be excluded, as well as the other folks who are working a third shift or have small children. There are a lot of folks who have not been able to participate and the Democrats are reaching out so those people have the opportunity to.”

Kopparapu said the law is unpredictable and unclear. The party’s plan has delegates being selected in person at county conventions, which he said satisfies the legislation.

Concerns about mailing cards and primaries

Republican lawmakers have previously said the new law is necessary because the presidential preference card system is too similar to a primary, and would force New Hampshire to move its primaries ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

In a statement after the vote, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann criticized the decision:

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann released the following statement:

“Iowa Democrats care more about appeasing their national party leaders than they do about our First-in-the-Nation Caucus,” he said in a statement. “… This latest charade will do nothing to make them part of the conversation of being first. It will instead jeopardize the future of the Iowa Caucuses.”

But Democrats insist their plan is a caucus, not a primary. They are different, with caucuses led by parties and primaries by state governments, Kopparapu said, and it is not likely that there will be any issues or recourse.

“The delegation selection plan and process is exactly the same as previous caucuses,” he said. “… It doesn’t change the actual process and selections. I don’t see any issues with New Hampshire and I really don’t understand what the basis of that argument is.”

Cranston said the process is not a primary and will not be represented as one. The party, he said, is unified on the plan and is preparing to be the first caucus in the 2024 presidential election.

“Our efforts, both for the caucuses and on other issues as well, are unified,” he said. “We’re excited about where we’re at and where we’re going … The issues are being addressed and will continue to be addressed. There is going to be a whole lot done at the local level that is strongly supported by our state party.” 

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Eleanor Hildebrandt
Eleanor Hildebrandt

Eleanor Hildebrandt is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and mass communication and global health studies, with a minor in German. She is a managing editor at the university newspaper, the Daily Iowan, and has served as an reporter intern at Iowa Capital Dispatch.