Although the Democratic National Committee rejected Iowa’s plan to hold “virtual caucuses” by phone, some Iowans who are unable to attend their precinct caucus on February 3, 2020 may still be able to participate at some other location. But the Iowa Democratic Party will soon stop accepting applications to hold satellite caucuses.
What you need to know if you want to make alternate arrangements for caucus night:
Who can organize a satellite caucus?
Who might benefit from a satellite caucus?
The Iowa Democratic Party envisioned these caucuses for “places like factories, group homes, or community gathering places […]. This option will be especially useful for shift workers, Iowans with disabilities, Iowans serving overseas, and students.”
Not everyone who typically works Monday evenings will be able to take time off for a satellite caucus, but some employers may agree to give employees break time for that purpose. The Iowa Democratic Party may also consider allowing some satellite caucuses to take place a little early, to accommodate before-work gatherings for those whose shifts begin at 5 or 6 pm.
Many Iowans spend the winter months in a warmer climate. Snowbirds could also organize a satellite caucus to accommodate those in their area. But participants must be registered to vote in Iowa–not people who used to live here but have relocated to other states year-round.
Who will decide whether I can hold a satellite caucus?
A special committee of Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee members who have not endorsed any presidential candidate will screen the applications. They will look for a demonstrated need to hold a satellite caucus and evidence that the organizer has found an appropriate location with enough parking, tables and chairs, space for caucus-goers to break into preference groups, and Wi-Fi.
Is there a minimum number of potential attendees for a satellite caucus?
The application form states, “Satellite Caucus Sites that anticipate 10 or more attendees have a greater likelihood of being approved.” But there is no minimum number of participants. Even if only two or three Iowans are students at some out-of-state college, or a small number work in the same city overseas, they can apply to hold a satellite caucus in their area.
Do I have to reserve a public place for the satellite caucus?
Not necessarily. Some private spaces (such as assisted living facilities or factory workplaces) would likely be approved as a satellite caucus locations. A room on a military base is also not open to the general public but could be an acceptable caucus place, if several Iowans are demonstrated to be stationed there.
For Iowans living out of state or overseas, those organizing satellite caucuses should strive to make the events available to any eligible participants nearby. For instance, many Iowans attend colleges or universities in the Boston area. Ideally, a satellite caucus would be in a building any of those students can get into–not, say in a lounge of one person’s dormitory.
Similarly, lots of Iowans spend the winter in Arizona. An application to hold a caucus in a meeting room of one Phoenix apartment building, which would be inaccessible to others, would be less likely to be approved than a plan to hold a caucus in a community center open to any eligible Iowa caucus-goer in Phoenix, Scottsdale, or Mesa.
Will the satellite caucuses be accessible to people with disabilities?
The application form includes many questions about accessibility and states, “Satellite caucus sites that are approved to be open to the general public must be ADA compliant.”
However, satellite caucuses are not a viable solution for every Iowan with disabilities–for instance, those who are unable to leave their homes at night.
Party leaders have said they are taking steps to make the regular precinct caucuses more accessible in 2020 than ever before. But there’s no question satellite caucuses will serve fewer people than the original plan to allow caucusing by phone.
What if I don’t know yet whether I will need to attend a satellite caucus?
The Iowa Democratic Party plans to approve the satellite caucus locations and publish the list in mid-December. Consequently, Iowans with inconsistent work or travel schedules won’t be able to plan a satellite caucus later if they learn at the last minute they won’t be available on February 3.
How long do I have to apply for a satellite caucus?
The party announced November 18 as a deadline. You might be able to get your application considered if it comes in shortly after that date but before the special committee has gone through the proposals. I wouldn’t put off the task for long, though.
How will the satellite caucus results be tallied?
Unlike the virtual caucus, which was assigned a set number of state delegates, the Iowa Democratic Party will allocate delegates from the satellite caucuses on a sliding scale, depending on turnout, up to a maximum of 210 (that is, 10 percent of the total state convention delegates).
Results from the in-state satellite caucuses will be calculated on the level of each Congressional district (similar to the original virtual caucus plan). Results from out of state or overseas satellite caucuses will go into one pool for the whole state.