The Democratic National Committee has thrown a monkey wrench into the caucus preparations for Iowa and Nevada. The DNC will recommend against the “virtual caucus” idea that was being proposed in both states that would have increased participation. The DNC says the vote-by-phone procedures would be too easily hacked.
The two state parties had already announced plans for the virtual caucus — developed with the help of the DNC — and are now unsure how to proceed at this late date.
The telephone-based system of voting proposed in Iowa and Nevada was supposed to fulfill a new DNC requirement to improve accessibility at the 2020 caucuses. It came after years of complaints from caucus state voters who say they want to vote but, because of work or physical conflicts, have been unable to attend the long and involved events, which often drag on for hours. The virtual proposal was aimed at bringing in those voters, as Democrats hoped to expand turnout in 2020 and pour the maximum amount of grassroots energy into picking a nominee to take on President Donald Trump.
But two sources close to the DNC discussions said that as the virtual proposals were under consideration, DNC security experts managed to hack into a conference call involving the committee and both Nevada and Iowa parties, raising new questions about security.
But local Democrats are steamed at the national party. They claim there wasn’t even a security system in place to hack.
“What’s surprising is that the DNC insisted on expanding access to the caucus, and then when the state party comes up with a plan for expanding access, they use leaks and innuendo to tube the process,” said Jeff Link, an Iowa-based Democratic consultant who has long helped run the Iowa caucuses.
Link accused the DNC of leaking a narrative last week out of a closed committee in San Francisco. “This whole notion that their system was hacked and it was a security risk — there was no system in place yet,” he said.
One Nevada Democrat, who asked not to be named, noted that the DNC had advance viewing of the state’s plan before it was made public in March.
“To say this is unbelievable would be an understatement,” the person said.
This is an embarrassing about-face for the party and raises “what were they thinking” questions. The hack of party emails in 2016 should have taught everyone in politics a lesson about basic security. Protecting the vote should be of paramount importance and should override all other considerations. It would be nice to make access easier. But why do it if you can’t guarantee that the vote is true and accurate?
There may come a day when voting online from the comfort of your own home, or on the go using a mobile device will be possible. That would be a triumph for democracy. Today, it’s more likely to be a disaster.