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Monday, January 20, 2014

Iowa Caucus Reforms 2014

The Iowa Presidential caucuses every four years are always under attack.

The 2016 caucuses are no exception.

Des Moines Register Senior Political Reporter Jennifer Jacobs explains.

"No remedies have yet been put in place to heal the Iowa GOP’s black eye from the vote-count embarrassment that unfolded after the 2012 Iowa presidential caucuses.

Two years ago today, Rick Santorum was announced as the official winner based on a certified vote, reversing Mitt Romney’s eight-vote win announced after 1 a.m. on caucus night."
Obradovich and Jacobs comment on Iowa caucuses (click for full video)
There are lots of critics of the caucuses but Jacobs reports many GOP operatives like and support the caucuses. I recently was interviewed by Nick Cary of Thomson Reuters and we talked about the significant admiration of the Iowa Presidential Caucuses by many Republican operatives specifically in Washington D.C. I've found the same to be true of the many Republican activists and professionals I know personally, many of whom are former students of mine. It's amazing how many professionals you produce in both political parties in 43 years as a professor at Iowa State University!

As we've said, the narrative of Presidential candidate selection with Iowa kicking off the process, New Hampshire following and then a short series of other primaries - Nevada and South Carolina to give some early regional diversity - is a pretty good way to manage the American political process. I have also talked at great length with New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner in his memorabilia-filled office in Concord. Gardner is the "dean" of SOS's holding that position since 1976! He is a big fan of "Iowa Caucuses First; a week later New Hampshire Primary Second."

The Iowa GOP has been preparing a series of changes in the Caucus procedures to improve the process. Of special importance is the creation of a better Caucus night operation. This includes:

1. Better training for the volunteers who preside over the thousands of precinct caucuses.

2. Create a vote counting process that is more consistent across all caucuses on the night of the big event.

3. Design a vote reporting system once each caucus votes which precisely delivers the exact vote to party headquarters. This will require a very simple but exact Internet and or phone-in system.

4. A data base that is user friendly, has verification redundancy, and can be quickly updated. The site needs to have a web site that each precinct chair can access after submitting the vote and he/she and at least two caucus officers from each precinct can verify.

5. A clear and simple information campaign to inform party leaders around the national and the news media on the reforms. This is vital to establishing a renewed credibility for the Iowa caucuses.

It's important to note that the validity of the Iowa Presidential Caucuses is totally centered on the reputation and integrity of Iowa as the best state to start the Presidential candidate vetting process. The reforms are crucial to restoring that reputation.


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