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By Ann Thelen

All eyes will be on Iowa in February when the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses take place in the heart of the Midwest. In 2020, our country will re-elect or elect a new president, and in Iowa, all U.S. House Representatives and Sen. Joni Ernst are up for re-election.

Through the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives’ grassroots advocacy arm – Iowa Rural Power – cooperative directors and employees have been hard at work. They have been learning more about the process for the Iowa Caucuses and meeting with candidates as they crisscross the state. If you’ve spotted an individual in a green Iowa Rural Power T-shirt at a political or public event, then you’ve seen a co-op advocate in action.

The overall goal of IAEC’s 2020 Caucus Project is to tell the cooperative story to as many candidates as possible. This grassroots advocacy during the presidential caucus season provides a unique opportunity for Iowans to share the cooperative story on a national stage.

Iowa’s electric cooperative members, in all the state’s 99 counties, are encouraged to learn more about the process and meet with candidates when they visit your communities.

Here are some facts to know about this prominent time in the political process.

What is a caucus?

A caucus is a gathering of like-minded voters where they discuss party platforms and select delegates and candidates for general elections. Both the Iowa Democratic and Republican parties hold caucuses. The Iowa Caucuses are essentially neighborhood meetings of the major political parties. This year, the Democrats and the Republicans will hold caucuses in nearly 1,700 precincts across the state. 

Is a caucus an election?

No. Caucuses are not elections. They are organized and run by the state parties and not state government. They are simply a mechanism where individuals show their support for a candidate and tell the parties what issues matter.

What time do the Iowa Caucuses start?

Each neighborhood caucus starts precisely at the same time – at 7 p.m. on Feb. 3. Participants must be on time. Late-comers are not allowed to participate.

How do I participate in the Iowa Caucuses?

You must be registered to the party for which you are caucusing. Therefore, you must be a registered Democrat to participate in the Democratic caucus, and you must be a registered Republican to participate in the Republican caucus.

If you are not registered to a party or are registered to a different party, you can still caucus. You can change your party registration at your precinct caucus.

  • You must reside in the precinct where you are caucusing.
  • You must be eligible to vote. If you have not registered to vote yet, you will be able to do this at your precinct caucus.
  • You must be 18 years old by election day.
Why are the Iowa Caucuses a big deal?

The Iowa Caucuses are the first official contest of the presidential primary season. They are a great indicator of how candidates will perform in other states and give candidates publicity and momentum to continue their campaigns. The results of the first-in-the-nation caucuses can make or break a candidate.

Why do Iowa’s electric cooperatives get involved?

Iowa’s electric cooperatives have long recognized the importance of political advocacy and sharing our story with policymakers and elected officials. While not everyone who campaigns for president will win, ultimately, they are all influential public figures and provide a national stage for cooperative issues.

Why are we doing this when there is a sitting president?

Electric cooperatives are nonpartisan organizations. We look forward to sharing our story with anyone in Iowa who will listen, including President Trump and those campaigning to be his opponent. It would be a missed opportunity to not share our story with sitting members of U.S. Congress, mayors and governors – even if they are not elected president. After the caucuses, many presidential nominees will likely return to Iowa and help campaign for down-ballot candidates.

Electric cooperative members, employees and directors are asking presidential candidates this question:

“How will your energy plan help provide affordable and reliable power to rural Iowa?”

Early states

Iowa Caucuses – Feb. 3, 2020

New Hampshire Primary – Feb. 11, 2020

Nevada Caucuses – Feb. 22, 2020

South Carolina Primary – Feb. 29, 2020

Super Tuesday (Mar. 3, 2020)
Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia
What do electric cooperatives want to achieve with Iowa’s 2020 Caucus Project?
  • Educate and engage with candidates, regardless of party
  • Educate Iowa’s member-consumers about advocacy efforts and candidates’ stances on rural energy issues
  • Tell our story and impact public policy
Find your Iowa Caucus location
Democratic Party of Iowa

Republican Party of Iowa

Ann Thelen is the editor of Living with Energy in Iowa magazine

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