The biggest field of caucus candidates ever requires a new approach.

That’s the chief reason the Quad-City Times is partnering with the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce and St. Ambrose University to create the Quad City New Ideas Forum, a platform for voters to listen, learn, question and fully engage with the candidates and key issues.

With 11 declared Republicans, five declared Democrats and another half dozen more contenders on deck, this caucus campaign will be a challenge for voters. Iowa is famous for its independent- minded voters, with registration split fairly evenly among Republicans, Democrats and those who register no party.

In Polk County, home to the state capital, Democrats hold the edge with 38 percent of all active registered voters, according to this month’s tally. Republicans are 30 percent. No party registrants total 31 percent.

In Western Iowa’s Woodbury County, home to Sioux City, 34 percent are registered Republican, 34 percent are no party and 32 percent are Democrat.

But in our community, no-party registrants prevail across the board, according to the latest Scott County Auditor’s monthly voter registration report.

In Davenport, 41 percent are no party, 36 percent are Democrats and 22.4 percent are Republican.

In Bettendorf, 40 percent are no party, 33 percent are Republican and 26 percent are Democrat.

Those figures, and our active Quad-City Times letter-writing community affirm that few around here are comfortable falling into party lockstep. Some voters here regularly change affiliation to express their views instead of adapting their views to fit party candidates.

For the 2012 caucuses, no-party registrations dropped 268, with Republicans adding about that many.

In the 2008 caucuses, Davenport’s no-party registrations dropped by nearly 2,000, about the same number picked up by Democrats.

That suggests that Q-C voters, moreso than those elsewhere in Iowa, are focusing on candidate attributes and experiences, not just party label.

That task will be daunting with 16 declared Republicans and Democrats.

The Quad Cities New Ideas Forum is issuing invitations to all declared candidates to join us for at least one Quad-City appearance on the St. Ambrose University campus.

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Plenty of opportunities exist for candidates to rally their reliable supporters, raise money, or condemn the incumbent and other challengers. The Quad Cities New Ideas Forum offers a place for elaboration and discussion of ideas and issues pertinent to Quad-Citians.

For St. Ambrose University, this forum extends its history of cultivating civic engagement. The university isn’t supporting any candidate or party. Its involvement is focused on elevating participation. St. Ambrose has the facilities to accommodate almost any candidate preference, with accessible rooms and parking for voters.

For the Chamber, the forum helps candidates plug in to our Quad-City region, and elevates region issues to this national platform.

For the Quad-City Times, this forum is a logical extension of the dialogue our community creates every day on this page. We will help publicize and present events. On our print, web and mobile pages, we’ll present reader commentary under the Q-C New Ideas banner.

Together, we pledge to work with the candidates and issue campaigns to present civil, informative forums for Quad-Citians who take their caucus voting roles seriously.

How will we know if this works? Easy. Our Quad-City caucuses will be jam-packed with informed voters eager to launch the 2016 presidential race.

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