Just the Facts

Five Facts on the Virtual Caucus in Iowa

By Emma Petasis
June 11, 2019 | Blog

The Iowa Democratic Party is finalizing rules to add virtual caucuses to the way people can participate in the 2020 election. These are the facts. 



1. The Iowa caucus is different from other voting processes.

Iowans gather to discuss and vote for their party leadership rather than just casting their ballots. The Democratic caucus in particular is out in the open, and everyone knows whom you voted for. NPR reports that there will be 1,683 Democratic caucuses at more than 1,000 locations statewide. The Republican Caucus is simpler, and voting is done informally and more secretively on pieces of paper containing their vote.[1]

2. Six virtual caucuses will be held in an effort to make voting more accessible.

These caucuses are envisioned to operate like in-person meetings, except they can be done over the phone or computer. They will begin with a message from the party chair, statements from candidates, and then candidates are asked their candidate preference. This will be done five times and will still involve a time commitment like the in-person caucus.[2]

3. The virtual caucus will be weighed differently than the in-person caucus.

Voters can participate in only one caucus, and if they choose to vote virtually, it will not be weighted as those who participate in person. Under the new rules, despite how many people participate virtually, these caucuses will account for roughly 10 percent of delegate equivalents, while in-person participants  will account for 90%.[3]Because of this, it won’t greatly affect the outcome of how delegates are distributed.

4. The virtual caucus will bring new voters into the caucuses.

In a poll reported by The Des Moines Register and CNN, a majority of virtual participants reported this would be the first time they participate in any caucus, while less than 20% of in-person participants will be voting for the first time.[4]The poll also determined that 63% of those likely to caucus virtually are under the age of 45.

5. There are doubts surrounding the virtual caucus

By creating the virtual caucus, some Iowans worry that it will eliminate what makes caucusing different. It will take away from the discussion and debate possible at the in-person gatherings. There are additional concerns about technical and logistical problems surrounding a virtual caucus, like the possibility of votes not being counted. The Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky assured voters that many tests will be conducted beforehand to assure no mistakes are made.[5]


[1]https://www.npr.org/2016/01/30/464960979/how-do-the-iowa-caucuses-work

[2]https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/08/politics/results-analysis-des-moines-register-cnn-poll/index.html

[3]Ibid.

[4]Ibid.

[5]https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/iowa-poll/caucus/2019/06/09/iowa-poll-virtual-caucus-plans-remain-mystery-likely-caucusgoers-iowa-caucus-president-primary/1360891001/

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