Only absentee ballots can solve the Iowa caucuses' two biggest problems

Part 2 in a series on how the Iowa caucuses work

I’ve written a short book’s worth of posts since 2007 on obstacles to attending the Iowa caucuses (see here, here, and here).

Over the same period, John Deeth has written extensively about overcrowded rooms in high-turnout precincts (see here and here).

The Iowa Democratic Party has tried to address both problems this cycle. Even so, many thousands of politically engaged Iowans will be unable to participate tonight. At the same time, Iowans mobilized by several well-organized campaigns will make many precinct caucuses extremely difficult to manage (not to mention fire hazards) in larger counties and college towns.

If we are to remain first in future presidential nominating contests, Democrats must take the obvious step toward making the Iowa caucuses accessible to all and less of a logistical nightmare.

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Deadline approaching to request accommodation for Iowa caucuses

When the Democratic National Committee nixed the “virtual caucus” plan, they destroyed any possibility of Iowans with disabilities participating in the February 3 caucuses by phone. Nevertheless, the Iowa Democratic Party is trying to make the in-person caucuses more accessible than in the past.

Democratic county party organizations have long been encouraged to arrange for precinct caucuses to be held at facilities that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, that doesn’t eliminate all barriers that might keep someone from fully participating in the first step of the presidential nominating process.

For the first time this year, Iowa Democrats can submit a request for accommodation at their precinct caucuses.

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Why I am supporting Elizabeth Warren

Amanda Rex-Johnson is an activist in central Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

I started volunteering on presidential campaigns last year long before I had identified my favorite candidate. My goal was to support folks getting more involved in the Iowa caucuses while advocating accessibility needs directly to the campaigns.

Not all the campaigns were easy to engage with. Despite multiple efforts, I was unable to connect with a top candidate’s operation here in Des Moines. When I found out that one of his top staffers would be a guest speaker at a training I was attending, I was excited to finally have a chance to ask how to volunteer and what they were doing to make their campaign more accessible for volunteers and organizers.

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Why I support Amy Klobuchar

Jackie Wellman is a Democratic volunteer in West Des Moines and a board member and Iowa ambassador of the Spastic Paraplegia Foundation. -promoted by Laura Belin

For years I was in denial about having a progressive, rare motor neuron disease, but the fact is that I have Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia.  Senator Amy Klobuchar is the co-sponsor of the rare disease caucus.  When someone is fighting for people like me and my son, they deserve a look. 

The senator was at my house in 2016 while stumping for Hillary Clinton.  I went to see her speak to the Asian Latino Coalition last April, walking away with even more appreciation.

After reading more about her and speaking to her, I decided she was the one I would be working for. Last June, I endorsed after trying to see as many candidates as I could.  Here are the reasons why:

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Iowa Democrats dismiss Julián Castro's critique at our peril

“If you didn’t know anything about this process, and I told you how it was set up, you would think that a right-wing Republican set this process up, because it really makes it harder to vote than it should be,” Julián Castro told a room full of Iowa Democrats at Drake University on December 10.

Castro’s campaign organized the town hall (which I moderated) to highlight problems with the Iowa caucus system and a calendar that starts with two overwhelmingly white states.

Now that Castro has ended his presidential bid, it may be tempting to dismiss his critique as sour grapes from a candidate who wasn’t gaining traction in Iowa.

That would be a mistake. Castro is only the most high-profile messenger for a sentiment that is widespread and growing in Democratic circles nationally.

If Iowa Democrats want to keep our prized position for the next presidential cycle and beyond, we need to acknowledge legitimate concerns about the caucuses and take bigger steps to make the process more accessible.

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