By Samantha Flom
Iowa Democrats have proposed a plan to cast aside the state’s historic tradition of voting for their preferred presidential nominee via caucus only in favor of a hybrid model that also includes mail-in voting.
The plan would also involve delaying the election’s results until Super Tuesday, giving up the state’s coveted status as the nation’s first presidential nomination contest.
Although the plan has yet to receive final approval from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), members of the committee’s rules panel appeared receptive to the plan at an Oct. 6 meeting.
“These have been lengthy and vigorous negotiations, and I’d like to commend Scott Brennan, the Iowa Democratic Party, for transforming their caucuses to include an inclusive and accessible mail-in process,” said Minyon Moore, co-chair of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee.
Ms. Moore added that the panel was looking forward to working with the state party to address the lingering logistical questions of DNC staff.
Under the proposed plan, voters can cast their votes via presidential preference cards sent by mail. However, those who prefer the state’s traditional precinct caucuses can still vote in person on Jan. 15.
The change comes amid the Democratic Party’s decision to revamp its national primary calendar, shifting South Carolina’s primary election to the front of the pack—a position Iowa has claimed for decades.
To comply with the new order and avoid sanctions, Iowa’s Democratic Party will not announce the results of its hybrid election until March 5, Super Tuesday, when 14 other states are set to host their primaries.
“We believe this delegate selection plan is definitely a compromise,” Rita Hart, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, told reporters on a conference call before the meeting.
From Nov. 1 through Feb. 19, voters will have the option to register for preference cards. The party will accept returned cards postmarked by March 5.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party plans to start its primary election season with the Iowa presidential caucuses on Jan. 15.
Like Iowa, New Hampshire’s primary contest has also been thrown into turmoil by the calendar shift.
New Hampshire’s contest—traditionally second to Iowa’s caucuses but the nation’s first primary—was also displaced by the move, creating conflict with state law.
In a show of defiance, New Hampshire’s Republican Secretary of State David Scanlan has pledged to uphold the state’s prized “first-in-the-nation” status and has held off on setting a primary election date for that purpose.
In return, the DNC has threatened the state’s Democratic Party with sanctions if it does not comply with the new primary calendar.
Early voting states tend to play a key role in the presidential primary process. While those who perform well early on will gain momentum and attract donors, those struggling to gain traction are often forced to drop out.
During the 2020 primary elections, the South Carolina primary marked President Biden’s first victory following losses in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.
Thus, according to fellow Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the party’s primary calendar shift was a clear move to edge him out of the race.
“Everyone knows the real reason the DNC made the change,” he said Sept. 5 in a statement.
“The people of South Carolina didn’t ask for it. No, it is simply another undemocratic attempt to rig the primary process in favor of their anointed candidate, Joe Biden.”
In addition to threatening sanctions against the New Hampshire Democratic Party, the DNC has also warned candidates that participation in an unsanctioned primary would result in their receiving no delegates.
Nonetheless, Mr. Kennedy vowed to continue campaigning in the Granite State, adding: “The DNC seems to have forgotten the purpose of the modern primary system to begin with, which was to replace backroom crony politics with a transparent democratic process.”
But while the DNC’s policies do not appear to have dissuaded him from running, they may have been enough to push him into making a different change—his party affiliation.
On Oct. 4, the Kennedy campaign announced that he intended to make a “historic announcement” during an Oct. 9 address to the American people in Philadelphia.
During the speech, the candidate will share “a vision of a profound realignment of American politics and the healing of the nation’s widening partisan divide,” according to a press release.
Although the details of that vision have yet to be disclosed, it is widely anticipated that Mr. Kennedy intends to launch a third-party bid for the presidency.
“If you’ve been waiting to come to one of my public events, this will be the one to come to,” the candidate said in a video message posted to his X account.
Stressing that he still sees a path to victory, he said that to do so, he planned to “tap into a mighty surge of people power and reclaim an honest, peaceful, just, and prosperous America.”
The address is set for 9 a.m. (ET) and will be streamed online.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.