The eyes of the world are upon us, but not only to see who is declared the winner of the GOP caucus Tuesday night. Some are trying to see just how the votes get added up. A reader from Florida writes:
While researching the Iowa Caucus process I came across your website. I was just wondering if you were aware that the Iowa GOP has decided to tally the votes in an undisclosed location this year due to an anonymous threat to ’shut down’ the caucus. This is very concerning to me and I was wondering what your take is being that you’re much more familiar with the Iowa election process than I am. I have heard that Iowa is one of the most transparent states in terms of voting, but wouldn’t counting the votes in secret open up the potential for serious vote fraud? Knowing that the Iowa GOP is not very fond of the current front runner in Iowa I am even more suspicious.
Indeed. It’s easy to imagine the whole Republican Party in the corner with Mitt Romney, hoping to hold off the Paulites and the Gingrich disaster, willing to do anything to save their careers from the hoi polloi. Might they even move their vote counting to an undisclosed location? Sure, even their beloved VP hangs out there!
The party continually points out that votes are counted at the caucus site and everyone can watch as they are phoned in to Des Moines. But then what?
Can a handful of candidate staff in Des Moines keep track of 1700 sets of of results pouring in all at once?
We know this can be done right because the Iowa Democrats did it properly in 2008. Those results were reported to an automated system that promptly put them on the internet. Caucus sites that had an internet connection could verify that their results were correctly posted to the world. Why didn’t Republicans adopt that method this time? Why are they waiting two weeks to publish their returns? (two weeks???)
As my correspondent in Florida continues–
I don’t mean to sound paranoid, but I [don’t] exactly have the utmost faith in the modern election process. . . . It certainly doesn’t help that these organizations seem to quickly change the process at the last minute. One example from the recent Florida straw poll was when the voting window was suddenly changed without notice and ticket carrying convention attendees were send home without getting to cast a vote.
He also asks what he can do to remove the doubt. Perhaps the famously networked Ron Paul campaign could set up a website similar to the one Iowa Democrats used in 2008 and publish a parallel set of results that can be seen on-line instantly by people at every caucus. Probably not all precincts would participate in their duplicate reporting system, but it would function as a large, unscientific exit poll and a spot check on the official results.
Short of that local voters can’t know their totals were correctly placed in the larger totals until the two weeks pass. That is antedeluvian.