DNC formally denies Iowa Virtual Caucus plan

Local News

DES MOINES — The Iowa Democratic Party reported on Friday morning that the Democratic National Committee has recommended not to approve Iowa’s virtual caucus plan.

“Regardless of today’s news, we remain confident the 2020 Iowa Caucuses will be our best yet, and set the standard for years to come,” said IDP chair Troy Price. “While only five months remain before the caucuses, we will explore what alternatives may exist to securely increase accessibility from previous years given the time allowed. We’re dedicated to expanding accessibility throughout the process so that no Iowan faces a barrier at their caucus. We are confident that this will be resolved in the coming weeks. 

The party had planned to allow Iowa Democrats to cast caucus votes over the phone instead of showing up in the traditional caucus settings in February 2020.

Price went on to say that the party has worked around the clock to prepare for the 2020 caucus.

“It is why we have nearly 80% of our precinct locations locked, nearly 600 people in the caucus leadership pipeline – putting us ahead of the pace set by previous years. We rebuilt infrastructure in places where none existed just a year before. And we have procedures in place that will ensure our caucuses are more transparent and accountable than any other time in our past,” said Price. “We were charged by the DNC to create a system that would increase participation, and the Iowa Democratic Party did just that with the virtual caucus. The virtual caucus represents years of work by activists, volunteers, party leaders, former campaign officials, staff, and so many others to find a system that expands participation and preserves the spirit of the caucuses. We proposed our plan seven months ago to give us the longest ramp possible to build this system. But in that time, we know the threat landscape has changed. We have seen time and again the increased threat by foreign state actors and the continued reluctance by Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress to take this threat seriously. 

Price ended his statement by saying, “As Chair of the Party is it my job to protect our voters, protect our party, and to protect the integrity of our first in the nation caucuses. We are obviously disappointed by this outcome, and we continue to have confidence in the abilities of our vendors, but if the DNC does not believe the virtual caucus can be secure, then we cannot go forward.”

DNC officials, including its Chair Tom Perez, issued the following statement in part, ” We concur with the advice of the DNC’s security experts that there is no tele-caucus system available that meets our standard of security and reliability given the scale needed for the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and the current cyber-security climate.

“For these reasons, we are recommending to the committee that virtual caucus systems not be used in the Iowa and Nevada 2020 caucus processes, and unless compliance can be met through other means, that the committee consider a waiver.”

Local 5 has reached out to all the 2020 presidential campaigns for comment. Below are the responses we’ve received.

Bill de Blasio

“The Iowa Democratic Party is trying to fundamentally include more voters, which is ultimately how we change this country. The DNC should not stand in the way. I commend the Iowa Democratic Party’s efforts to open up the caucus process to people with disabilities, people with demanding work schedules and childcare needs, or others for whom the caucus process presents barriers to participation. While cyber-security is a very serious threat to our democracy, I believe it is imperative that the DNC reconsider its decision and immediately get to work, in partnership with the Iowa Democratic Party to ensure the caucus is both safe from interference and accessible to all.”

Julian Castro

“The Democratic National Committee’s decision to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, and decrease turnout by up to a third, in the first-in-the-nation caucus state is an affront to the principles of our democracy. For years, our party has fought for increased access to the ballot, most recently evidenced by the legal struggles in Georgia, North Carolina, and my home state of Texas. This decision goes against everything our Party says we stand for.

As I’ve campaigned in every corner of Iowa, I’ve heard from teachers, home care workers, nurses, single parents, shift workers, and senior citizens who tell me the same thing: one night of caucusing is not enough.

Protecting the integrity of our elections is a critical concern. But with only 157 days until the Iowa caucus, the DNC’s feet-dragging has done a serious disservice to Democratic voters and the principle of a fair, accurate, and unburdensome primary or caucus. I strongly urge the DNC to embrace the values of our Party by allowing absentee voting — either through a secure virtual caucus, mail-in ballot, or early voting absentee process — in order to ensure that all Iowans have an opportunity to participate in their caucus.”

John Delaney

“We applaud the Iowa Democratic Party’s efforts to make the Iowa Caucuses accessible to everyone, and we have confidence that they will continue to work to make the 2020 caucuses as accessible and transparent as possible. While the DNC’s decision is disappointing, we are happy that security concerns are being addressed. Our campaign is dedicated to moving forward and building on the successes of our grassroots efforts. Iowans do an excellent job vetting Presidential candidates, and Iowa remains an important first test for the field.”

Joe Sestak

“This is regrettable. While I share concerns over cybersecurity and protecting our elections, we also need to ensure the caucus is as inclusive as possible – and the virtual caucus was one way to bring more people into the process.”

Tom Steyer

“I am extremely disappointed in the DNC’s decision to reject plans to hold virtual caucuses, and I stand shoulder to shoulder with Iowans and Nevadans who want their votes to be counted in such an important election. Virtual caucuses would also make participation easier for parents who can’t afford childcare and workers juggling two jobs and night shifts. Democrats should rally behind ideas that increase voter participation, not suppress them. I call on the DNC to reconsider their decision and work with officials in both states to come up with a plan that guarantees security while expanding voter participation.”

Marianne Williamson

“Iowa’s Virtual Caucuses are the an important and innovative step to increase voter participation in Iowa. Accessibility to the polls or causes are paramount to a free and fair election. We need to assure its a safe and secure process where every vote counts. We also trust Iowa’s Democratic Party, along with the DNC to do just that to make the Virtual Caucuses meet the high standards of a regular caucus.”

©TEGNA Inc. 2019. All Rights Reserved.