Opinion: Digitals caucuses are a no-go, it’s time to look at different options

Iowa caucuses still have work to do in order to make the democratic event more accessible.


Alex Kroeze

Voters wait patiently for the caucus to start on Monday Feb. 1, 2016.

Peyton Downing, Columnist

Democratic presidential-nomination candidates are swarming Iowa leading up to our first-in-the-nation caucuses in February. However, not everyone in the Hawkeye State will be able to participate in this democratic function.

The Iowa Democratic Party has attempted to expand the accessibility of caucuses, but has thus far been unable to find a suitable solution. As caucuses take place during Monday evenings, it is difficult for some people to take time off work, find transportation, or have other time commitments, such as parenting.

In order to combat the barriers to caucusing, Iowa Democrats attempted to create a phone-in option. The way this would work is that a week before caucuses begin, people would be allowed to phone-in and cast their vote for up to five candidates in a ranked order. If the caucusgoer’s first pick doesn’t receive enough support, their vote will go to the second choice and so on.

The issue with the phone-in system, according to the Democratic National Committee, is that it is incredibly vulnerable to hacking. With all the drama surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 elections, it seems foolish to implement something that could be targeted in the next election to determine who will assume the Oval Office.

So why does Iowa have a caucus rather than simply switching to a safer method of having a primary with paper ballots? Then, it would lose its first-in-the-nation caucus. New Hampshire has a state law that allows it to host a primary before any other state, so Iowa would become less important on the national level. Switching to a primary system would not work, as that would remove Iowa from the nation’s gaze during election cycles.

Paper absentee ballots seem like the obvious solution to all the technical issues the Iowa Democrats have experienced. If our state’s caucuses were set up identically to how the phone-in system was put forward with ranked choice and if the caucus was still in place, it seems absurd that New Hampshire would attempt to argue that this was a form of primary and jump the gun on Iowa. This would still allow people who are unable to attend a caucus to have their voice heard while still keeping the caucus system.

If Iowa still doesn’t want to take the risk of butting heads with New Hampshire, there is another way to change the caucus to make it more inclusive. That would be to have the caucus during the weekend.

There is no legitimate reason why the caucus can’t include everyone who wants their voices to be heard. There is no need to hold the caucus so late in the evening on a weekday during the school year. Even if the time did not change and it was moved to the Sunday prior, there likely would still be a greater number of people who would be able to attend.

While there are many issues with the caucus system that may warrant its removal, its removal would be detrimental to the state of Iowa. While having primaries may be easier, the next best course of action is to have paper write-ins and hold the caucus on the weekend to increase accessibility.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.