Political News

Iowa Democrats are getting ready to caucus ... in the Caucasus

Posted February 2, 2020 4:25 a.m. EST

— For the first time ever, Iowa Democrats will get a chance to caucus in the Caucasus.

The voters are scheduled to get together on Monday morning in Tbilisi, the capital of the former Soviet republic. Held in the home of American journalist Joshua Kucera, the Tbilisi Iowa Democratic caucus will be one of three "satellite" events held abroad, along with Paris and Glasgow.

This is the first time Iowans can caucus away from their home state. Caucuses previously required voters to participate at a singular time and location, but the Democratic National Committee changed the rules after the 2016 election to accommodate people who might not be able to make their regularly scheduled vote.

When Colyn Burbank found out about the new rules, he jumped at the opportunity. The Scotland-residing Iowan filled in the application, knowing at least six people would attend. Now he has "close to 10" coming to caucus, including some traveling from London.

"It's gonna be crowded," he told CNN. "My wife and I, we have a two and a half year old daughter and we have other friends who are coming and they have a two year old, we have a cat ... that's kind of the whole beauty of these caucuses, that they're a meeting of neighbors."

Burbank describes the vibe he and his wife are going for as "homey, welcoming, nostalgic Iowa theme."

"I'm sure there will be some kind of corn theme and I've heard rumors of some 'Field of Dreams' references," he said, adding that chips and homemade salsa will be served.

The Iowa Democratic Party said it approved 87 of these "satellite caucuses" which will take place on Monday at different times and locations other than the 1,678 regular precinct caucuses.

Unlike a traditional primary, in which voters cast ballots, caucuses all take place out in the open: People show up to their precinct and physically move into designated parts of a room to show their preference for a certain candidate. Delegates are awarded based on those who reaches a certain threshold of support by the end of the night. Burbank said his calculations suggest only one candidate will reach the required level of support at his caucus.

Explaining the process to his Scottish friends has been something of a challenge for Burbank. "I've had quite a few conversations ... I mean, you have to just kind of get over the hump of explaining where Iowa is in the first place and then take it from there," he said.

In Paris, the organizer is Emily Hagedorn, a 20-year-old student from Ankeny, Iowa. She originally planned to hold the caucus in her university dorm, but switched the location to a different room after encountering accessibility issues. She has received virtual training and had a training call to ensure the caucus goes smoothly.

Hagedorn is excited -- and nervous -- about Monday. "It's weird that my first caucus is also one I'm chairing, but I'm fortunate that I have the opportunity and means to host," she told CNN.

The international caucuses are expected to be rather intimate affairs. Hagedorn said 26 Iowan Democrats had pre-registered as of Thursday.

The results from the international events will be counted into the statewide results. And while every vote counts, some of the organizers are pretty open about their expectations.

When the Voice of America published a story with a headline "Could Tbilisi Decide Iowa Caucuses in 2020 US Presidential Race?" Kucera responded in a tweet: "I'm going to guess ... no."

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