Iowa Democrats announce date for 2024 in-person precinct caucus

After months of uncertainty, Iowa Democrats finally have a caucus date.
Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 12:39 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Democratic Party announced a date for in-person caucuses in 2024, after the party’s national leaders stripped the state of its first-in-the-nation status.

The state party said it had approved January 15, 2024, as the precinct caucus date in the 2024 election cycle, following a meeting by the party’s central committee on Saturday. The purpose of the in-person caucuses is to conduct party business.

“Iowa Democrats will honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s by renewing our commitment to protecting our freedoms so that we may ensure future generations continue to have a voice,” Rita Hart, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said, in a statement.

This comes only months after the Democratic National Committee’s rule-making arm voted to remove Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status, a privilege it has held for numerous election cycles.

State Democrats plan to hold a mail-in caucus instead of the traditional in-person meetings for presidential preference, but the DNC ruled that did not initially meet its standards and gave additional time to fix the proposal. New laws passed by the Republican-controlled legislature in Iowa have put that plan’s legality into question. According to Iowa Code, the caucuses also have to be held at least eight days earlier than any other state’s first vote. But it doesn’t specify any consequences if Iowa doesn’t go first.

Iowa State University political science professor Dave Peterson says the plan is a way to please Iowans and the DNC. “This is how they they split the difference to be compliant with both state law with the early process to be consistent with the the Republicans and the DNC rules,” Peterson said.

The date coincides with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day., and is the same date that the Republican Party of Iowa chose for its caucus in 2024. The national GOP has maintained the state’s status as first-in-the-nation in their presidential nominating calendar.

Incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden faces a handful of challengers to the nomination, though national polls show Biden with an average 55-point lead over his nearest competitor.

Peterson says drama over the order of state primaries and caucuses could reemerge for the 2028 election.

“Biden will almost certainly not be on the ballot, right, that there will be an open one way or the other there will be an open race for the Democratic nomination. And so the choice of order is going to be much stickier,” Peterson said.

Peterson says he doesn’t expect the Democratic caucuses to be first ever again. “The Democratic party has become much more of a multiracial coalition and Iowa’s poor handling of past caucuses and moved to become a much more Republican state and the lack of racial diversity in the state does make it a poor choice for the Democratic Party,” Peterson said.