The Iowa Democratic Party's state central committee set the 2024 caucus date for Jan. 15, despite national party rules. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Iowa Democrats decided Saturday they will caucus on Jan. 15, 2024, the same day as Iowa Republicans, but it is still unclear when they will cast presidential preference votes.
The Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee approved the date Saturday, emphasizing that the caucuses will be held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“While Iowa Republicans continue to add barriers to the ballot box, the reimagined Iowa caucuses will be the most inclusive process in history and our leaders in Black and Brown communities will guide us every step of the way,” Iowa Democratic Chair Rita Hart said in a statement. “No matter what, Iowa Democrats will always do what’s good for Iowa, what’s good for our democracy and live up to Dr. King’s legacy.”
The early state changes came following reporting issues in the 2020 Iowa caucuses, as well as criticisms from national Democrats that caucuses are not as accessible as primaries. The current nominating calendar approved by the DNC in February has South Carolina holding the first contest, followed by New Hampshire, Nevada, Georgia and Michigan.
Iowa Democrats did not specifically address any conflicts with the DNC calendar in a news release announcing the caucus date.
While the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee ultimately denied Iowa an early state waiver, Democrats introduced a new caucus process to address the concerns.
The party plans to move forward with a mail-in system, where caucus participants will vote using a presidential preference card that can be requested and returned by mail.
The Jan. 15, 2024 Democratic caucuses will be meetings for party business, but votes will not be cast at the precinct gatherings. A schedule for the mailing and return system has not yet been announced.
Republicans have raised concerns about the Democrats’ plans, including fears that mail-in preference voting could prompt New Hampshire to move both parties’ primaries ahead of Iowa. Iowa Republicans will hold in-person presidential preference votes on Jan. 15 with the national party’s blessing.
Both Iowa and New Hampshire have state laws on the nominating cycle, with the Iowa law requiring it hold the first contest in the nation and the New Hampshire law requiring it hold the first primary.
New Hampshire is expected to hold its primary Jan. 23, but some New Hampshire Republicans have said Iowa’s new caucus system may trigger their state law for being too similar to a primary.
Meanwhile, New Hampshire may also hold its contest earlier than the DNC approved. New Hampshire Republicans have not yet submitted a plan to the Republican National Committee, with a deadline of Oct. 1.
Iowa Democrats potentially could avoid DNC sanctions — and a potential conflict with New Hampshire — by completing the mail-in presidential preference vote on or after March 5, 2024, after the early-state contests.
Members of the Democrats’ Rules and Bylaws Committee said at a Thursday meeting they were continuing to work with Iowa Democrats on a delegate selection plan. The committee also did not approve New Hampshire’s plan, which was also missing a primary date.
The caucus day, which falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, will honor the civil rights leader, Iowa Democrats said. IDP Black Caucus Chair Al Womble criticized the Republican Party of Iowa for not mentioning King in their caucus announcement, and said Republicans have “no claim” to his legacy.
“We will not allow them to erase the importance of this day,” Womble said in a statement. “We are indebted to Dr. King’s work and sacrifice and owe it to his memory to stand up for what’s just and right.”
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