Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential caucuses would break with decades of tradition in 2020 by allowing voters to cast absentee ballots and then releasing the raw total of votes won by each candidate.
A Democratic National Committee panel known as the Unity Reform Commission set those changes into motion during a meeting here on Saturday, clearing the way for perhaps the most significant changes to the Iowa caucuses since they emerged as a key step in the presidential nominating process five decades ago.
“There’s never been an absentee process. We’ve never released raw vote totals,” said Scott Brennan, a Des Moines attorney who serves on the DNC. “Those would seem to be pretty darn big changes.”
Reform commission members and national party leaders predicted the changes, which affect other caucus-holding states as well as Iowa, would increase voter participation, bring transparency to the nominating process and bolster grassroots activism — particularly in rural and Republican-leaning places….
In other business, the commission moved to scale back the influence of so-called “super-delegates” — the party leaders and insiders who were not bound to support a particular presidential candidate in previous national conventions.
In a series of recommendations, the commission sharply reduced the number of super-delegates who can back a candidate regardless of how that candidate performed in their home state’s caucus or primary. The move is a response to 2016 convention delegates and particularly supporters of Bernie Sanders who believed Hillary Clinton’s nomination was unfairly bolstered by super-delegates who were unaccountable to the will of voters in their states.
If approved, only members of Congress, governors and top party leaders like former presidents would enter the national convention with no requirement to back a certain candidate on the first ballot. Two other categories of super-delegates would be required to support the candidate based on the outcome of state primary and caucus results.
The Unity Commission also outlined reforms for increasing voter access in states that hold primaries — primarily by encouraging same-day or automatic voter registration and same-day party switching for voters registered as a Republican or independent, and in some cases creating penalties for states that don’t.