Caucus Night 2012 was not exactly a banner evening for the Republican Party of Iowa. Reporting problems plagued the vote-counting during the crucial first-in-the-nation presidential contest. The initial headlines credited frontrunner Mitt Romney with the narrowest of victories over Rick Santorum, by a mere eight votes out of more than 100,000 cast. When the state party certified the results of the election more than two weeks later, however, it declared Santorum the official winner by 34 votes. Yet Republican officials had already acknowledged the embarrassing truth: Because of inaccuracies in dozens of precincts and missing results from eight of them, the real victor of the Iowa caucus would never be known for certain. Needless to say, the Iowa GOP would like to have a smoother—and more accurate—election on February 1. So would Iowa Democrats, who are running their first competitive caucus in the state since 2008 and whose process for nominating a presidential candidate is even more complicated than the one Republicans use.
Both parties are pinning their hopes on new technology, betting that a custom-designed mobile platform can modernize a quirky voting method and ensure the public knows which candidates won Iowa long before voters head to the polls in New Hampshire. The idea is to meld “a brand-new technology and a 100-year-old process,” said Stan Freck, senior director for campaigns and elections at Microsoft, which partnered with the parties on the project.
It bears repeating that caucuses are not like traditional primary or general elections—there are no voting booths or machines, and there is nothing really automated about them at all. At 7 p.m. local time on February 1, voters in each party’s 1,681 precincts will sign in at one of nearly 700 locations across the state. The Republicans keep it pretty simple: After representatives for each candidate make brief presentations, the voters write the name of their preferred nominee on a slip of paper, the ballots are counted, the winner for each precinct is announced, and the tallies are reported to party headquarters.
Democrats, by contrast, hold their caucuses entirely out in the open and add an extra layer of complexity. Rather than cast ballots, voters declare their support for a candidate by gathering in one corner of the room to be counted. If any candidates fail to reach a pre-set viability threshold, their supporters are up for grabs, and rivals work to persuade them to join their side for the next tally.
Full Article: A Tech Boost for the Aging Iowa Caucus – The Atlantic.