Iowa democrats pitch idea of expanding 2016 caucus access
DES MOINES (AP) — Proposals for improving access to Iowa’s presidential caucuses include seeking a law to make it easier to get time off from work, better support for parents and opportunities for the military to participate remotely, according to a presentation the Iowa Democratic Party chair made Friday in Washington, DC.
Iowa Democrat Party Chairman Scott Brennan unveiled the recommendations before the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee. The party has spent months researching ways to expand access to the Iowa local meetings, which have served as the kickoff to presidential voting events for more than 30 years.
Brennan said the goal was to make sure all interested could participate. He said the effort was not directly in response to any criticisms about the exclusivity of the caucuses. Democrat Hillary Clinton questioned the way the caucuses are run after her third-place finish in 2008.
“The process we undertook was not related to any one person’s criticism. We think we do caucuses very well and we have very high participation, but we can always do better. Today we’re looking at ways to see if we can’t find more people who want to participate,” Brennan said during a conference call.
The proposals include pushing for legislation that would require employers to give non-essential workers time off to attend their precinct caucus, as well as hiring a staff member to focus on caucus accessibility. The party also would work to expand childcare opportunities during the caucuses.
The party also wants to provide satellite caucus sites for those who can’t easily participate. And they are proposing that Iowa voters serving in the military could participate through a phone-conferencing system.
In a statement, Brennan said the proposals were the result of extensive research.
“We have engaged in an open and honest discussion with a wide cross-section of our grassroots and our Democratic leaders and activists, and these recommendations come directly from what we heard in more than 150 conversations,” Brennan said.
Iowa Republican Party chairman Jeff Kauffman said in a statement that he had recently met with Brennan to discuss how the two parties could work together. Kauffman said he would not comment on the specifics of the proposals, and it was not clear whether the party would support the legislation sought by Democrats.
The Committee will not take any action on the broad proposals Friday. The state party must still develop a complete plan to present for approval next May.
In 2008, 240,000 Iowans participated in the Democratic caucuses, about 39 percent of all registered Democrats.