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Elizabeth Warren Is Offering Free Child Care During the Iowa Caucus. Here’s What It Means

For working parents in Iowa, an hours-long voting process that starts at 7 p.m. CST might exclude them from voting.

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Today, Monday, February 3, is one of the most important days of the Democratic primary: the Iowa Caucus. The Caucus marks the first time that the Democratic candidates face the approval, or disapproval, of voters — and whoever wins the Iowa caucus is often seen as the most likely person to win the primary more generally. And one candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren, has a plan to get more parents out to vote than ever before.

The Caucus process is a little different than a normal primary vote: rather than walking into a voting booth and casting a vote for a preferred candidate, Iowans have “gatherings of neighbors,” where Ioans gather at meeting locations in one select location in one of the over 1,600 precincts in Iowa at 7 p.m. CST and functionally deliberate who will get delegates over a period of hours and some will have to stay through the night if they get appointed to attend the Democratic National Convention. It is not as simple as walking in and casting a vote. And because of that, parents might not be able to join in. 

By design, an hours-long event that happens in the evening excludes primary caregivers who might not be able to afford child care for a long night of caucus-going. Which is why Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign stepped in for caucus-goers on Monday night and offered free, volunteer-led child care on Monday night to potential voters who are also parents. 

Volunteers with the Warren campaign will babysit Iowa City area kids for free. Of course, there are some strings attached: a waiver and an agreement in which parents consent to their kid watching a movie or a video that’s either G or PG and permission to potentially keep kids up past their bedtime. Parents are asked to provide their own necessary supplies like diapers or food but otherwise, moms and dads who might have skipped participating in democracy tonight to raise the next generation of voters can participate in the process of the Caucus. 

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It also tracks with a real theme of Warren’s presidential campaign, which is one focused on making lives for working parents easier. One of her first ‘plans’ — a calling card the Senator is known for — that she ever released on the campaign trail was a Universal Child Care plan that would provide free or very close to free child care and day care for kids up to five. Currently, parents often spend up to a third of their income on child care. Her plan, which couples federal and state investment to lower costs of care, would have even the most well-off parents only paying 7 percent of their income in order to find daycare for their babies.