First Time Opportunity for U.S. Military and Civilian Overseas Voters to Participate in the Iowa Caucus

On Feb. 1, Iowa voters will gather in select caucus sites to choose their respective national parties’ presidential candidates. However, for the first time in the history of the Iowa Caucus process, active duty members of the military and civilians living abroad will be allowed to participate and cast their vote. The Iowa Caucus has served as the first major electoral event of the U.S. presidential nominating process since 1972. Both the state Republican and Democratic Iowa parties administer their own set of caucuses that are subject to their own set of rules that can change from time to time (e.g., voters in each party's caucus must be registered with that party, voters can change their registration at the caucus location, etc.).

Because of the long standing caucus requirement of physically appearing at a precinct caucus location, the Iowa Democratic Caucus will administer the first-ever satellite Tele-Caucus that will take place at the same day and time Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. CST as the Iowa Democratic Precinct Caucuses and will also be run in much the same way. This new opportunity is being provided to expand voter participation.  A military and civilian overseas voter interested in participating in the Iowa Democratic Caucus was required to register with the Iowa Democratic Party no later than January 6, 2016.  Participants will all call in to the same “caucus” (a large conference call-turned-precinct) using any type of phone or Skype and select their candidate of choice via dial pad. Democratic presidential candidates can be eliminated based on viability or percentage of support among the tele-caucus goers just as in a normal caucus, and supporters can realign over a number of rounds. 

The Iowa Republican Caucus will not administer a satellite Tele-Caucus but instead will accept absentee ballots that will be included in the final caucus vote totals. A military and civilian overseas voter registered to vote as a Republican in Iowa are required to submit an online form on the Iowa Republican Party’s website, listing their complete voter registration address, county, and voting precinct in order to validate their voter registration. By choosing to use this method to vote for a candidate in the Iowa Republican Caucus, the voter agrees to waive their right to a secret ballot. These absentee votes will then be counted by 8 p.m. CST on Feb.1.

The Council of State Government’s Overseas Voting Initiative works in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program in an effort to promote the right of over 5 million U.S. military and civilian overseas citizens registered to vote in U.S. elections. The initiative convenes and supports working advisory groups that promote best practices as well as facilitate data standardization policy solutions.  Access this link for more information:  www.csg.org/ovi  and Twitter: @CSGOverseasVote.

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