Iowa Democratic Caucuses - Monday, February 3rd at 7:00 pm
Doors Open by 6:30
The Democratic and Republican parties have a policy development process that involves input from members. On even years the parties from the local to national level develop platforms. A platform consists of the party’s principles, beliefs and positions that govern the organization. The platform is made up of resolutions or planks. A resolution is a policy statement, belief or value that voters believe should be adopted by the political party. At both party caucuses, resolutions/planks are submitted to the party leaders to be considered at the county, district, state and, eventually, the national level. You may bring platform plank resolutions to your caucus.
Scott County, Iowa has 63 precincts or voting districts. After the precinct caucuses both major parties convene their county conventions. At this convention the party discusses the party platform from planks submitted from members at the caucus. Delegates to the district and state conventions are elected. Iowa has 99 counties and four congressional districts, so there are four district conventions. At the state convention the party platform is debated and delegates are elected to the national convention.
The caucuses for the two parties are run very differently and the agenda, rules and procedural matters are determined at the state level by each party.
The information below is from the various websites, interviews and the Nonpartisan Caucus Training that PACG co-sponsored.
Caucuses are gatherings of neighbors where Democrats meet to organize their precinct for the upcoming election, discuss important issues, and declare their Presidential preference.
The precinct caucuses will take place at all 1,678 precincts in Iowa at the same time. You can find your caucus location at: www.iwillvote.com. Your caucus location might not be where you actually vote.
Iowans who are unable to attend their precinct caucus can caucus at a satellite caucus. There are 99 satellite locations, including 71 in-state, 25 out-of-state, and 3 international sites.
Monday, February 3, 2020 at 7:00 pm. The caucus cannot be called to order before this time. Doors will open by 6:30 pm, and, in some cases, earlier.
All caucus-goers MUST be in line no later than 7:00 pm to participate. You may arrive early to your caucus location, but if you get there after 7:00 pm you may not caucus.
If you are unable to attend your precinct caucus, you may be able to attend a satellite caucus.
You will be registered as a caucus goer when you check in. You will be asked to review your contact information and sign your name. You do not have to show ID unless you pre-registered online. A picture ID is required, but it does not have to be a Driver's License. At registration, you might be given a Scott County Democrats donation envelope. If you don't get one then, you will later.
There are three main parts to the caucus -
Introductory Business: During this time the caucus will elect the permanent Chair and Secretary, hear a message from the state party chair and from elected officials. If time allows, and at the discretion of the Caucus Chair, you will hear from local candidates for office.
Remember that all of the people who are acting in any leadership capacity at your caucus are volunteers for either the Scott County Democrats (SCD) or a presidential campaign. Please be kind and respectful. They did not come up with these rules and procedures, but have volunteered to implement them at your caucus on behalf of the Iowa Democratic Party. Use your patience muscles!
The person who runs your precinct caucus is called your Caucus Chair. When you first arrive, this person will be your Temporary Caucus Chair, assisted by a Temporary Caucus Secretary. The Temporary Caucus Chair has been trained by the Scott County Democrats in all caucus procedures. Temporary Caucus Secretaries might have been trained, but not necessarily.
The first thing your caucus will do is elect a Permanent Caucus Chair and a Caucus Secretary to act as the representatives for the Scott County Democrats. Nominations for these positions will come from the floor, but will also include your temporary Chair and Secretary.
It is critically important that anyone who is nominated from the floor for the position of Permanent Caucus Chair has also been trained in this process by the Scott County Democrats. Otherwise your caucus will run inefficiently and the frustration level will be quite high. Be certain that you have a chance to hear from each Caucus Chair candidate to determine why they feel they are qualified to lead this complicated process. You may also ask why your Caucus Secretary believes they are qualified.
The voting for Permanent Caucus Chair and Secretary is done by voice vote (unless it's close, then there will be a hand count).
During the Introductory Business portion of your caucus, the Chair discuss envelopes for your donation to the Scott County Democrats and a large envelope will be passed around for state fundraising. Bring your checkbook, cash or credit card, if you are so inclined. You do not need to make a donation. But if every one of the 17,000+ people expected at caucus this year gave just $1, the Scott County Democrats could pay for all costs of this year’s caucus. Of course it is hoped that people will give more than a dollar!
Presidential Preference: During this time you will determine viability, break into preference groups by candidate, and elect delegates to the County Convention. See details below under the How section.
Party Business: During this time you will select members to the Scott County Central Committee and the Platform Committee. The Central Committee Executive Committee is like a Board of Directors for the Scott County Democrats. If time allows you may discuss platform resolutions (sometimes called “planks”) to be sent to the Platform Committee to work on for the county convention. Ask how you can volunteer to help at the county level for these committees.
Every four years the Democratic party puts together its party platform from the ideas and beliefs that govern the party as a whole. You may submit suggestions for the platform in the standard format of a resolution. All PACG Forum Facilitators have been asked to create resolutions that express their concerns for issues they are working on. These resolutions are available to download here so that you may print them off and bring them to your caucus. There are also resolution forms that will be handed out by your Caucus Chair. Resolutions must include the name and contact information for the person who wrote it and signed by the Caucus Secretary.
In addition to submitting resolutions, to have greater impact on the party platform, consider volunteering for the Platform Committee.
The number of delegates available for your caucus precinct is pre-determined by the Iowa Democratic Party. It is based on the Democratic performance in previous elections in your precinct. The way delegate assignments to candidates are determined is by the number of people who support a particular candidate.
Eligible caucus-goers divide to form Presidential Preference groups by standing in a section of the room devoted to their candidate.
One of changes to caucus this year is the Presidential Preference Card, which is your ballot for the caucus. This two-sided, numbered document is very important.
For ease of explanation, and to remain nonpartisan, presidential candidates in this Blog post will be different fruits.
Campaign volunteers for the various presidential candidates will have established sections of the room to represent their candidate. A campaign volunteer will be the Precinct Captain for their candidate.
If the (Permanent) Caucus Chair wishes, the Precinct Captain for each candidate will be allowed to speak to your group briefly (one minute) about why their candidate is running and what issues are important to them.
Sufficient time should be allowed for discussion with your neighbors in the various campaign groups before you are asked to make a decision as to whom you will support.
After discussion, you will be asked to move to the part of the room designated for your preferred candidate (for example, “the Apple candidate in this corner of the room and the Blueberry over by that wall”). This is the first alignment.
Once you are aligned in Preference groups your Caucus Chair and Secretary will hand out your Presidential Preference Cards. Do not fill out your Presidential Preference Card until this first alignment.
You get only ONE of these cards and it is vital that you handle it with the importance it has. If you make a mistake filling it out, turn it in to the Caucus Chair. You both will log it as a Spoiled card. You will then be given another card. All Presidential Preference Cards must be accounted for.
You will fill out the first side of your Presidential Preference Card when you are in your first alignment. Sign it and give it to the Apple (Blueberry or Pear) Precinct Captain.
The Precinct Captains take the Presidential Preference Cards to the Caucus Chair to be counted, with the assistance of the Caucus Secretary. These individuals will work together to determine which candidate groups are viable based on the number of people in the preference group (Apples), the number of delegates that the IDP has allotted to your entire precinct (which is predetermined by the party at the state level), and the number of attendees at your caucus. Again, the Chair, Secretary and Precinct Captains have been trained in the math involved in determining viability. You can help by being certain that the people attending your caucus are counted correctly and that observers of the caucus are not counted (both observers and members of the press may be at your caucus) .
If a preference group for a candidate does not have enough people to be considered “viable” (which in most precincts is 15% of the attendees at the caucus), caucus-goers will have one more opportunity to join another preference group or acquire people into their group to become viable.
If your candidate is viable after the first alignment, you may NOT change to a different candidate and you will not fill out the second side of the Presidential Preference Card. The Caucus Chair and Secretary will keep your Presidential Preference Card.
You can be Undeclared or Uncommitted as your first preference/alignment, but be cautious about this as you may not get a chance to choose a fruit candidate if the number of people in the Undeclared group is large enough to make it viable.
After the first alignment is tallied, if your candidate is not viable you will have a chance for a second alignment. You should be given time to discuss with other caucus-goers and campaigns before you are asked to choose another candidate. Once you decide you will realign, fill out the second side of the Presidential Preference Card, and the process above will repeat a second time.
Should there be more viable groups than delegates allotted to the precinct, things get a bit more complicated. The Precinct Chair will be familiar with the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) rules to resolve this issue.
From this last grouping the delegates will be assigned to the winners. Delegates are awarded to the final preference groups based on their size.
All of the Presidential Preference Cards will be collected and retained by the IDP.
Caucuses represent democracy in action and we expect a lot of moving around and lively dialogue between caucus-goers on Monday, February 3rd.
A pen, a donation, your neighbors and your positive Democratic energy!
If you have pre-registered online, you will be asked for a photo ID. You may register to vote at the caucus and you do not need to show an ID.
If you have an idea for a resolution to the Democratic platform, bring that and either submit it or fill out one of the resolution forms that your Caucus Chair will have.
Please pack your patience and bring it along as well!
1. Make sure you’re a registered Democrat in Iowa. It is possible to register to vote or affiliate with the Democratic Party at the caucus check-in.
2. Check in early by January 17th to attend your caucus. You do not have to check in early and may check in on the day of the caucus.
3. Find your caucus location.
You can do all of this at thecaucuses.org or at IWillVote.org.
Saturday, March 21st – County Conventions
Saturday, April 25th – District Conventions
Saturday, June 13th – State Convention
Monday, July 13th – Thursday, July 16th – 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee
For an interesting explanation of the recent caucus training that PACG co-sponsored, read this terrific article from the Quad City Times.
Civil Rights Forum Facilitator
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