Democrats Scrap Plans For Virtual Iowa Caucus Over Security Concerns

August 30, 2019 by TWN Staff
Democratic National Committee Headquarters. (Photo by Dan McCue)

Citing concerns raised by security experts, the Democratic National Committee has recommended nixing a plan that would have allowed Iowans and Nevadans to remotely caucus for candidates next year.

Advocates for the so-called “virtual caucuses” argued that allowing voters to participate from their homes or offices would open the political process to more people, particularly those with disabilities or work schedules that prevent them from getting to traditional caucus sites.

But the Democratic National Committee said Friday security concerns outweigh those other factors and it is recommending its Rules and Bylaws Committee reject Iowa’s and Nevada’s plans when it votes next week.

The Rules and Bylaws Committee issued conditional approval in June. According to sources, during a closed session at the DNC’s summer meeting last week in San Francisco, some party officials expressed concerns, citing the hacking of the DNC by Russian operatives during the 2016 election cycle.

According to the Associated Press, several representatives of the party’s current presidential candidates also expressed concerns about hacking and whether the public would trust results.

However on Friday, one presidential candidate, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jullian Castro, issued a statement saying the Democratic National Committee’s decision would disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, and decrease turnout by up to a third.

To have this happen in the nation’s first contest of the 2020 race for the White House “is an affront to the principles of our democracy,” he said.

While some may be disappointed in the recommendation, election security experts have been repeatedly calling on the DNC to reconsider telephone-based caucusing.

David Jefferson, an election security expert and board member for the Verified Voting and the California Voter Foundation, sent a letter this week to Frank Leone, a member of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee, and Bob Lord, the DNC’s chief security officer, warning against telephone voting.

In the letter, Jefferson writes, “Telephone voting cannot be secured to the standards required for a presidential primary or caucus.” He adds, “[T]here is simply no way to properly secure a telephone caucus with any technology available now or in the foreseeable future.”

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