Iowa Democrats pick a 2024 caucus date

Democrats caucus at City High in Iowa City on Feb. 3, 2020. The Iowa Democratic Party plans to conduct the next presidential caucus over mail. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

The Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) will hold its 2024 caucus the same night as the Iowa Republican Party had already chosen for its caucus, party leaders decided on Saturday. The IDP State Central Committee unanimously approved Jan. 15 as the date for the precinct-level meetings. But the committee did not make any decision on what role, if any, the January caucus meeting will play in how Iowa Democrats select their party’s nominee for president.

In February, the Democratic National Committee approved a revised primary schedule for 2024 that moved Iowa out of its traditional first-in-the-nation position, and prohibited the state party from conducting its selection process earlier than Super Tuesday, which is on March 5 next year. But state law requires parties to hold precinct caucuses “not later than the fourth Monday in February of each even-numbered year” and “at least eight days earlier than the scheduled date” of any other state’s presidential primary or caucus.

In an attempt to satisfy both DNC regulations and state law, the IDP presented a plan in May that would end its traditional in-person selection process for presidential candidates. The in-person caucus would take place at least eight days before other states vote, but participants would just address certain matters of party business. The presidential candidate selection process would be conducted through mail-in voting.

The DNC rejected this proposal in June, because IDP did explain when the mail-in ballots would be due or when the results of the vote would be announced. The DNC said for Iowa’s plan to comply with the new primary schedule, the mail-in period must extend through March 5, with no results announced prior to that date.

The IDP state central committee did not address the mail-in process during its meeting on Saturday, but the party has said it still plans to conduct the presidential portion of its caucus via absentee ballots.

The date both parties have selected for their caucus is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. When Iowa Republicans announced in July they selected Jan. 15 for their caucuses, there was a widespread reaction on social media suggesting that the aggressively conservative leadership of the party had selected the only federal holiday specifically honoring a Black American as a way of “owning the libs.” Speaking to the Associated Press’ Tom Beaumont, Iowa Republican Party Chair Jeff Kaufmann offered a different explanation.

“As Republicans, we can, I, we see [sic] this as honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King in terms of having a caucus here,” Kaufmann said after the date was announced.

IDP Chair Rita Hart used similar language about honoring King’s legacy, while distancing the Democrats from the Republicans in a statement on Saturday.

“Iowa Democrats will honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by renewing our commitment to protecting our freedoms so that we may ensure future generations continue to have a voice.”

“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.”

In a statement posted online on July 29, the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee said it had given final approval to 46 state primary or caucus plans so far. At the close of that statement, the committee noted it was still waiting for “Iowa’s decision on when its party-run mail-in presidential preference primary will begin and end.”

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