DNC removes Iowa from early voting states

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Courtesy of USA Today

Some worry that a caucus swap could lower Iowa’s importance in the eyes of political candidates.

Editor’s note: The Iowa State Daily attempted to contact Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rep. Ross Wilburn regarding the article but received no response.

A tentative primary calendar from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has excluded Iowa from early voting states, but the Iowa Democratic Party said they would follow state law in holding the first-in-the-nation caucus.

The Iowa Democratic Party has until Jan. 5 to finalize a plan to submit to the DNC. Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rep. Ross Wilburn said in a press release Monday that he has no choice but to follow Iowa law. Contrarily, in statements to the Des Moines Register Monday, the Progressive and Stonewall Caucus chairs within the Iowa Democratic Party voiced their support for the DNC calendar.

“Small rural states like Iowa must have a voice in our Presidential nominating process,” Wilburn stated. “Democrats cannot forget about entire groups of voters in the heart of the midwest without doing significant damage to the party for a generation.”

Notably, the early voting states chosen by the DNC include Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which excludes every state in the Central and Mountain time zones, the only exception being four counties in Michigan.

“Iowa was seen as a flyover state, to begin with, even with first-in-the-nation status for both parties,” said Mack Shelley, an Iowa State professor in political science and statistics. “It’s almost literally going to be that now.”

Director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center, Karen Kedrowski, said the DNC’s decision is solidifying criticisms by Republicans that Democrats have become a party run by coastal elites. She added that Democrats already rely on coastal leadership and spend money on voting efforts in coastal states.

“[Iowa Republicans say] this is not representative of the full sweep of the country, and that it seems like the Democrats don’t care about the center of the country, and I think they’ve got a point,” Kedrowski said.

Shelley said the DNC is attempting to address concerns about the lack of diversity in Iowa, which is 84.1% white, non-Hispanic or Latino. He said the DNC has clearly wanted to feature diverse and large population states where Democrats are competitive in the early voting primary period.

However, Kedrowski said that South Carolina, which is slated to vote first, is not competitive for Democrats and the demographics of people who vote in their primary are similar to Iowa’s Democratic caucus demographics.

Iowa Democrats could hold a caucus before the date given by the DNC, but Iowa would lose half of its delegates to the national convention.

“I think there’s 0% probability that Iowa is going to be able to kind of force its way back to the head of the list,” Shelley said. “One thing that has been discussed, and the party won’t like it one bit, is the idea of having a so-called beauty contest, where you could hold caucuses and people cast votes and don’t count for anything.”

If Iowa never holds the first-in-the-nation caucus again, Kedrowski said Iowa State students would lose out on opportunities.

“It is an incredibly powerful [form of] civic engagement, activity and experience for students, and we would be losing that, and that’s a terrible shame,” Kedrowski said. “It provides students opportunities — irrespective of their party affiliation or their personal ideology.”

While the National Republican Committee announced plans to have the Iowa caucus be first, Kedrowski emphasized the importance of both parties having Iowa be first in the nation.

“[It] makes a huge difference in terms of the variety of speakers that you’re going to have,” Kedrowski said. “Iowa State is very, very committed to having a lot of different perspectives represented in terms of the variety of events that you can attend and the number of internships or entry-level employment opportunities that you may have.”

The Iowa Democratic State Central Committee will have to make an initial decision soon that may be drawn out in a battle between the DNC or the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, depending on their decision. By that time, the Iowa Attorney General will be a Republican for the first time since 1979.