clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Yes, there is an Iowa caucus in Paris

Why Iowa caucuses are being held internationally, too.

Supporters stand in front of a flag of Iowa ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate rally on Sunday, January 26, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa.
Salwan Georges/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

On Monday, February 3, voters in Paris will be able to participate in the Iowa caucuses, too.

And they won’t be the only ones caucusing outside the state. For the first time, Iowans in three satellite locations around the world, including Paris; Tbilisi, Georgia; and Glasgow, Scotland, will have the chance to hold their own caucuses. In 12 states across the country as well as Washington, DC, voters will be caucusing remotely as well.

These satellite caucuses, a tactic the party first tested in four locations in 2016, are intended to make the entire process more accessible — both to certain residents within Iowa and to Iowans living abroad.

Since their inception, the Iowa caucuses have been a unique process where voters are only able to participate if they physically show up, often for several hours. They’ve long been criticized for their accessibility issues, which the Democratic Party has attempted to remedy this year via a new set of reforms.

One of these efforts, the expansion of 2016’s satellite caucuses, means that more Iowa residents who are in other states and even, countries, have the ability to engage with the process.

All told, there are 87 satellite locations, including several located within the state itself. Nursing homes and hospitals across Iowa are among the places that have been designated as caucus sites in addition to the standard precinct meeting areas, so a wider swath of residents can get involved. Libraries in Tucson, Arizona; Brooklyn, New York; and Palm Springs, California, are also just a few of the other locations where satellite caucuses will be happening. And as the New York Times reported, international caucus sites include the homes of a graduate student in Scotland and a freelance journalist in Georgia.

These locations were determined based on nearly 200 applications the Iowa Democratic Party received this year. The full list is available here.

The rules and requirements for participating in the satellite caucuses are the same as they are for the caucuses overall: Voters need to be registered Democrats in Iowa and set to turn 18 by election day this November. And the votes will be tallied using the same methods: Any candidate who reaches a 15 percent viability threshold at a satellite caucus will have those votes taken into consideration for potential delegates.

Ultimately, the votes from all 87 satellite locations will be incorporated into the final result in two different ways, when it comes to calculating the number of delegates they translate to for each candidate.

According to the Iowa Democrats, the votes from in-state locations will be treated as if they’ve come from an additional county in each congressional district and weighted according to the number of people at the caucus. The votes from out-of-state locations, meanwhile, will be treated as if they were all from one at-large county that will be added in at the state convention and weighted based on the number of attendees.

As Vox’s Ella Nilsen has written, the Iowa caucuses continue to have some massive accessibility issues when it comes to language barriers, physical limitations, and a lack of childcare, which party leaders have only begun to address.

The satellite caucuses, though, mark at least one step in acknowledging the problem.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.