Iowa Democrats will allow people to caucus at satellite locations during the 2020 presidential primary in an effort to make its closely watched nominating contest accessible to more people.
Iowans will be able to apply to set up satellite locations at places like factories and group homes and other places to accommodate people who can’t attend their caucus in person the evening of Feb. 3. Those caucuses would still have to take place on Feb. 3 and the party prefers that they occur close to 7 p.m. ― when caucuses normally take place. The requests must be submitted by Nov. 18 and a committee of Iowa party officials will then review them. It was not immediately clear what criteria they would use to evaluate whether a satellite site was necessary.
Iowa officials are making the change because the Democratic National Committee adopted a new rule last year requiring states with caucuses to make them more accessible. People who caucus have to attend in person and the process can take hours. In Iowa, the caucuses also take place in the dead of winter, which can make transportation difficult. Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said that Iowa Democrats living out of the state when the caucuses take place would also be able to apply to set up satellite locations.
“Our goal is to make sure that these sites are truly expanding participation and not cannibalizing our precinct caucus efforts,” Price told DNC officials Friday. He added the satellite caucuses could also help relieve crowding at some high-density precincts.
Iowa Democrats had originally planned to use a satellite system under which Iowans could call in at certain times and rank their preferences. But the DNC blocked them from using the system last month over security concerns. The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted the new satellite caucus plan was in “conditional compliance” — essentially approving it — Friday afternoon.
“There are many challenges with developing a new system, especially in such a short period of time,” Price said in a Thursday statement. “And a satellite caucus system is the best possible solution to build on the great work of caucus organizers and keep focused on our goal of giving more Iowans a voice in our party and building momentum up-and-down the ticket in 2020.”
Iowa officials also faced a unique challenge in trying to come up with a new system to accommodate people who can’t attend their in-person caucus. Iowa and New Hampshire have long battled over being the first nominating contest during the presidential cycle, but seem to have settled at a kind of truce. There was some concern that if Iowa implemented measures such as absentee ballots, it would make their contest seem like too much of a primary and New Hampshire would try and move its primary date ahead.
“We wanted to make sure that whatever we did would not affect the calendar,” Price said Friday.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.