House bill would derail Iowa Democrats’ plan for participation-by-mail in Iowa Caucuses

DES MOINES — A hearing will be held today at the Iowa Capitol on a bill that would prohibit mail-in participation in next year’s Iowa Caucuses.

The move would scuttle the Iowa Democratic Party’s plan to offer an alternative for those who will not be attending a precinct meeting on Caucus night.

Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, said requiring in-person participation on Caucus night ensures New Hampshire doesn’t move its presidential primary ahead of the Iowa Caucuses. “When you have a system that strongly resembles a primary and the new New Hampshire secretary state of says: ‘We’re the first primary state, that’s long held tradition, and we’re going to jump over you if you do that,’ I’m going to take that seriously,” Kaufmann told statehouse reporters this afternoon, “so that’s why I’m doing it.”

Kaufmann, whose father is Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann, said this is a “must-do” bill for the 2023 legislature. “The protection of the Caucuses’ first-in-the-nation status is critical,” Kaufmann said. “If we do mail in, (the Caucuses) will not happen anymore.”

Kaufmann’s bill has another feature to prevent people from trying to vote in both the Democratic and the Republican Party Caucuses. It would no longer allow people to register to vote on Caucus night at their Caucus site. Instead, Caucus participants would have to be registered to vote as a Republican or a Democrat at least 70 days before Caucus Night. “If you want to Caucus with a particular party, make a plan and register accordingly,” Kaufmann said.

In a written statement, Iowa Democratic Party chair Rita Hart said these proposals from Republicans are “a surprise,” made without any input from Democrats. Hart said Democrats “will do what’s best for Iowa” and that means “moving forward with what she describes as an inclusive Caucus process.”

The Republican National Committee has voted to keep the Iowa GOP’s Caucuses first in the nation. However, national Democratic Party leaders have selected five other states to go first as their party selects a 2024 presidential nominee.