Democrats change 2020 caucus format


Despite record-setting attendance at the 2008 and 2016 Iowa Democratic Party Caucuses respectively, major changes are coming to the format in 2020.

The goal: Get more participation out of Democrats who wanted to participate but could not personally attend — such as second shift workers, single mothers with child care issues, military personnel and others.

The caucuses have been typically held at 7 p.m. on a Monday night in late January or early February.

Party Chair Troy Price said Iowa Democrats have traditionally looked at the format after every caucus and came up ideas to improve it. And a motivating factor was the razor-thin result in 2016 when Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders by .25 percent — 49.84 percent to 49.59 percent.

“When you have a close result like that it really shines a light on the process,” Price said. “Our evaluation process brought together more than 20 people from across the state, from various backgrounds and involvement in the caucuses, and their recommendations were used as foundation for the rule changes.”

T-R FILE PHOTO From this Feb. 2, 2016 photo, Sue Cahill, left, Grant Gale and Jeannine Grady, all of Marshalltown, compare delegate counts at the ward 1, precinct 2 Democratic caucus at the Marshalltown Public Library. Sanders won over Clinton, 68 to 45.

More tele-caucasing will be set-up to allow shift workers to participate at various sites, Price said. This had been done in 2016 at the Iowa Veterans Home.

Streamlining the re-alignment process

“One thing we heard after the 2016 Caucus from new participants is that they did not understand the rules well enough. For example, one group of supporters for candidate A who were not initially viable, would steal a delegate from another to become viable. It was part of the process people felt was rigged. The change is this: If one is in a viable group, the group’s number is locked. This allows people who might only have one-half hour to leave. If one is a non-viable group, they have the opportunity to re-align with another non-viable group to create a viable group,” Price said.

Additionally, the re-alignment period has been reduced from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.

“Our goal overall was to preserve the spirit of the caucuses … community meetings of people coming together and having a conversation about the future o our party, state and country, and who is the best person to lead our party forward,” Price said.

In 2016, Marshall County Democrats picked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) over (former) Secretary Hillary Clinton. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley did not register enough support county-wide to register a viable percentage. O’Malley later withdrew his candidacy as results came in statewide.

There were 18 county caucus sites ranging from the Melbourne Fire Department to the Le Grand Community Center to the West Marshall High School Auditorium.


Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or