Friday, September 20, 2019

New Iowa Delegate Selection Plan Passes Muster with DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee

The Iowa Democratic Party on Thursday, September 19 released the top lines of a revised delegate selection plan. A day later the plan was before the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) for the panel's consideration via conference call.

The reason for the delayed consideration -- most state parties' plans have already been found in conditional compliance by the RBC over the summer -- was that the committee's initial consideration of the original Iowa delegate selection plan found fault with the innovative virtual caucuses system the state party proposed back in February. Hacking concerns over the tele-caucusing proposal loomed over the plan and led to its rejection by the committee.

But under the revised plan, Iowa Democrats will allow for a petition process whereby any Iowa Democrat can file to set up a satellite caucus to be conducted on the same day as the traditional caucuses as close to the same 7pm start time as possible. Those petitions will by November 18, 2019 go before a review committee comprised of members of the Iowa Democratic Party state central committee not aligned with any presidential campaign. Petitions would be approved or rejected by December 16 and made public by December 18.

Functionally, the satellite caucuses within a congressional district will be collectively counted as an additional county in a given congressional district. Delegates and state delegate equivalents will then by apportioned based on that. What remains unanswered pending the full draft delegate selection plan approved by the RBC, is just how much those satellite caucuses will count. There were four satellite caucuses approved in 2016 in Iowa but that only ended up adding an additional three delegates to the state convention totals. That is far less than the nine percent addition to the total the originally proposed virtual caucuses would have added in 2020 would those tele-caucuses been approved.

The question, then, is whether the expectation is that the satellite caucuses will be low turnout affairs aim a particular groups most affected by the traditional caucus process or if there is a higher cap placed on them similar to the virtual caucus model. It could end up somewhere in between or could be figured on the fly on caucus night. The latter would add not only a bit of mystery but some uncertainty to caucus night not only for the candidates and their campaigns in terms of how they direct their supporters but for caucus administrators not to mention the media reporting the caucus results.

Expectations were set on this front in the 2016 delegate selection plan in Iowa. The three satellite caucus state convention delegates were determined in the plan. Absent the current plan approved today, there is no definitive answer to that question.

But in the meantime, the plan, including the satellite caucuses proposal, was deemed conditionally compliant by the RBC.

Here is more from the Iowa Democratic Party about how the satellite caucuses would work:

  • The 2020 satellite caucus proposal will allow for additional caucus locations on February 3 to expand participation for people who cannot attend their in-person precinct caucus. 
  • The IDP will expand the constituency engagement team to ensure the party is reaching communities across the state, as well as accessibility staff to make sure the caucus system works for all Iowans. 
  • Iowa Democrats can apply to hold a satellite site at places like factories, group homes, or community gathering places, to better accommodate people who cannot attend their in-person caucus. This option will be especially useful for shift workers, Iowans with disabilities, Iowans serving overseas, and students. 
  • The IDP will create a special satellite caucus review committee that will review applications and determine approval. The committee members will be appointed by the IDP Chair, and it will be comprised of SCC members who have pledged neutrality in the presidential race. 
  • Just like precinct caucuses, each satellite location will have a trained captain who is charged with overseeing the room, managing volunteers, and reporting the results on caucus night. 
  • The results will be reported using the same method as precinct caucus locations. The satellite caucuses will create one additional county in each Congressional District.

Stay tuned for more when the full delegate selection plan is made public by the Iowa Democratic Party.

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