Johnson County caucus organizers expect record 2020 turnout

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) -- The 2020 Iowa Caucuses are still a couple of months out, but caucus organizers in Johnson County said they are planning for a record turnout.

Organizers with the Johnson County Democrats expect scenes like this during the 2020 Iowa caucuses and are planning accordingly (KCRG File)

John Deeth, a caucus organizer for the Johnson County Democrats, said they’ve been planning caucus night for months, with elbow room specifically in mind. He said caucus night has continually grown over the years. In 2016 19,000 people turned out. In 2020, Deeth expects that number to reach up to 25,000.

“It’s going to be the biggest one we have ever had and that’s exciting, but it’s also challenging,” Deeth said.

Deeth has helped plan caucus night in Johnson County for over 30 years but expects 2020 will be like no other. He said in 2016, of the 10 busiest precincts in the state of Iowa, seven of them were in Johnson County.

“Johnson County has unique challenges because we are such an engaged and organized community, we have a great percentage of our population that wants to attend,” Deeth said.

Their biggest challenge in 2020 could be physical space.

“We’ve gotten bigger rooms this cycle, but in some places the biggest room in a precinct is just not big enough to hold all of the people that want to come,” Deeth said.

According to Deeth, Johnson County Democrats have spent more money this year renting out private, larger spaces like meeting rooms at hotels. One Democratic caucus site usually held at the Iowa City Public Library will move to the larger Englert Theater in 2020.

Deeth said the anticipated large turnout is partially because of the high number of active voters in Johnson County.

“It’s because we have such a big field of candidates running, that means there are more campaign organizers out in the field encouraging people to go,” Deeth said. “It means people are more focused on and paying more attention to who all the candidates are, it means you are more likely to find a candidate that clicks with you, that people feel, 'I want to go out and spend my evening supporting this person.'”

One way Deeth said caucus-goers can help alleviate caucus night growing pains is by registering or making changes to their voter registration before the end of the year. If not, have to register at your caucus.

“That’s going to slow down your time in line, it’s also going to slow up the time in line for everyone behind you," Deeth said. "If you can get your registration up to date as soon as possible, before the end of the semester, before the end of the year that’s going to be a better caucus night for everybody."

Representatives for the Johnson County Republicans said that although they don't expect a lot of support for challengers to President Trump, they too expect a relatively hefty turn out for their caucus. Republicans have left most of the larger caucus locations for the democrats.