8,000 Iowa Democrats have requested mail-in caucus cards for 2024 presidential primary

Preparing for their first election in the middle of the presidential pecking order in decades, Iowa Democratic Party leaders hope they can convince national officials to return them to a prominent position.

Monday’s unusual caucuses — when Iowa Democrats will not declare a presidential preference — could help make the state party’s case for a better spot in the order. The events could also hurt Iowa Democrats’ argument.

During a news conference Friday, party officials announced they have begun to mail presidential preference cards for this year’s election. Thus far, about 8,000 Iowa Democrats have requested the cards.

That number indicates a fraction of the turnout from past caucuses. In 2012, when then-President Barack Obama ran for re-election, about 15,000 Democrats voted at their caucus sites, the Iowa Democratic Party said in a news release Friday. Turnout may have been higher back then. In January 2012, citing the state party, NPR reported that 25,000 Iowans attended the Democratic caucuses.

Still, party leaders have time to increase participation. Unlike in the past, the state party’s election will occur entirely by mail. Democrats have until Feb. 19 to request preference cards, and the party will announce results March 5.

An image of what the Iowa Democrats' mail-in presidential preference cards look like. Cards are due back March 5, when results will be announced.
An image of what the Iowa Democrats' mail-in presidential preference cards look like. Cards are due back March 5, when results will be announced.

During a Friday news conference, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart said she hopes Monday will be a catalyst for enthusiasm. The party will still host caucuses around the state that night. Democrats will elect delegates and central committee members. They also will choose a party platform.

Hart said Democrats may then remember to request preference cards so they can cast a vote.

“We’re just all natural procrastinators,” she said. “The caucus gives us an opportunity to really impress upon people that not only do they need to sign up, but they need to get their friends, their family, their neighbors to also sign up.”

More: Where do I caucus? Iowa Democrats release 2024 sites for party business on caucus night

A big turnout is important to the party’s leaders, as they continue to argue that the Democratic National Committee should place Iowa higher in the party’s primary calendar.

The state began hosting the first-in-the-nation caucuses in 1972. But some Democrats criticized Iowa’s lack of diversity, given that 83% of the state’s population is white. (About 58% of the country overall is white.)

After the 2020 caucuses, when an application failed and the state party couldn’t report a winner for more than a week, the national party demoted Iowa. This year, Iowa Democrats follow New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and Michigan in the Democratic primary calendar.

Iowa remains first on the Republican calendar, with caucusgoers making their decisions Monday.

Iowa Democrats will announce election results on Super Tuesday, the busiest day on the primary calendar. In total, 15 states will announce results that evening. In the weeks running up to the vote, political operatives will likely dedicate their attention to bigger Super Tuesday states with more delegates, including California and Texas.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart speaks at the Iowa Democrats Liberty and Justice Celebration on Nov. 4, 2023.
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart speaks at the Iowa Democrats Liberty and Justice Celebration on Nov. 4, 2023.

Hart and Scott Brennan, an Iowan and member of the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, said the state can return to the first-in-the-nation status in 2028. But they said the party needs strong participation in this year’s mail-in election.

“The way we get to that better position with the DNC is to have some success here in Iowa,” Hart said.

She added that the party will lean on volunteers, committee members and social media posts to motivate Democrats to request their cards.

"It’s a new process,” she said. “So we’re bound to have to work really hard at this.”

More: Who won past Republican, Democratic Iowa Caucuses? See 2020, 2016 and earlier results

Brennan said more people will be able to participate in this year’s election than in the Iowa Democratic Party’s traditional caucuses, satisfying a request from the national party. Hart added that some people who can’t show up to a caucus in person, such as those working at night or retired Iowans spending the winter in warmer states, can participate this year.

Even so, the party faces strong headwinds — literally. Monday's forecast calls for a windchill of minus 26 degrees at 7 p.m., when Democrats will gather for what is expected to be the coldest caucus ever.

But, Hart said, “Here in Iowa, we’re used to cold temperatures and snowy weather. And people will still show up.”

How to request a presidential preference card:

Democrats can ask for a card by filling out a form at https://iowademocrats.org/caucus/. They can submit the form online.

Democrats can also print the form out and mail it to 5661 Fleur Drive, Des Moines, Iowa 50321. In addition, they can email the filled-out form to preferencecardrequest@iowademocrats.org.

When is the latest an Iowa Democrat can request a presidential preference card?

5 p.m. Feb. 19

Who is on the card?

In addition to President Joe Biden, Democrats can vote for author Marianne Williamson and U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota.

Voters can also select “uncommitted.”

Tyler Jett is an investigative reporter for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at tjett@registermedia.com, 515-284-8215, or on Twitter at @LetsJett. He also accepts encrypted messages at tjett@proton.me.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa Democrats begin mailing caucus cards for 2024 presidential race