A few miles north, Gretchen Brown-Waech was getting ready for a historic caucus designed to serve another community often sidelined in the political dialogue: the 300,000 voting-age Iowans with disabilities.
For decades the population has struggled to take part in the caucuses, which requires Iowans to physically show up at a location and spend hours choosing a candidate. Brown-Waech, who is deaf, first tried to caucus in the 1990s, but when people started talking over each other, she found it overwhelming and left early. She didn’t try again until 2016 with the help of a friend because she felt the choice was so important.
Now, on Monday, after pressing state Democratic party officials, Brown-Waech is leading the first ever Iowa caucus in American Sign Language. She expects about 20 people to come to the event on Monday, some from hours away, including a deaf couple in their 60s that has never voted. “Anytime anyone who is not part of the mainstream is shut out of the political process, our country loses,” said Brown-Waech. “If we don’t design something for people on the margins, someone will always be left out.”