DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Democrats have begun making their case for why the Iowa caucus should remain the first step in the party’s presidential nominating process.

The state party submitted a letter of intent to the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, promising to make changes in response to criticism of past events, including to make it more inclusive.

State Democratic officials expressed optimism even while acknowledging they face skepticism from many national counterparts who have long questioned why Iowa and New Hampshire — both largely rural states with overwhelmingly white populations — should begin the nomination process.

The Democratic National Committee decided last month to stop automatically allowing Iowa to hold the first presidential tilt.