Iowa: How the Iowa Caucuses Became an Epic Fiasco for Democrats | Reid J. Epstein, Sydney Ember, Trip Gabriel and Mike Baker/The New York Times

The first signs of trouble came early. As the smartphone app for reporting the results of the Iowa Democratic caucuses began failing last Monday night, party officials instructed precinct leaders to move to Plan B: calling the results into caucus headquarters, where dozens of volunteers would enter the figures into a secure system. But when many of those volunteers tried to log on to their computers, they made an unsettling discovery. They needed smartphones to retrieve a code, but they had been told not to bring their phones into the “boiler room” in Des Moines. As a torrent of results were phoned in from school gymnasiums, union halls and the myriad other gathering places that made the Iowa caucuses a world-famous model of democracy, it soon became clear that the whole process was melting down. Volunteers resorted to passing around a spare iPad to log into the system. Melissa Watson, the state party’s chief financial officer, who was in charge of the boiler room, did not know how to operate a Google spreadsheet application used to input data, Democratic officials later acknowledged.

Nevada: Election Security Institute Criticizes Newly-Unveiled Nevada Caucus App After Iowa Disaster | Hunter Moyler/Newsweek

An institute that studies election security criticized the Nevada Democratic Party for planning to use a digital tool for its caucuses, arguing that Nevada was likely to run into many of the same issues that Iowa did with its voting app last week. The Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Institute began its Twitter thread Sunday with a link to a story from The Nevada Independent, which detailed how the Nevada Democratic Party (NDP) will be using a digital “tool” on the day of that state’s caucuses on February 22. The Independent reported that NDP staffers made a distinction between its tool and the app that was used by the Iowa Democratic Party for their caucuses on February 3. A faulty app that was not tested properly and had coding issues led to delays of the Iowa results. “Deja Vu; this time in NV,” OSET’s first tweet read. “Let’s be clear from the start: their’s is an ‘App’ and no designation of ‘tool’ changes that. Let’s stop playing word games here. The fact that its pre-loaded & may not use mobile connectivity is the only ‘difference.'” The institute dismissed the NDP’s distinction between an “app” and a “tool,” arguing that any difference between the two was superficial.

Iowa: DNC recommends scrapping Iowa’s virtual caucus plan | Brianne Pfannenstiel and Barbara Rodriguez/Des Moines Register

The Democratic National Committee on Friday unraveled months of progress the Iowa Democratic Party had made toward making its caucuses more accessible and inclusive, throwing the process into turmoil. The DNC announced it would not recommend approval of plans by Iowa and Nevada to enact virtual caucuses, citing broad cybersecurity concerns. The rejection upends Iowa’s plans just five months before caucus night, adding another layer of uncertainty to what has always been a complicated, volunteer-driven exercise in organizing. And it calls into question the long-term viability of the Iowa caucus system as Democrats here debate whether expanding access outweighs the importance of being first. Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price struck a conciliatory tone and reassured Iowa Democrats that their place leading off the presidential nominating process is secure this February. “Iowa will be a caucus, and Iowa will be first,” he said multiple times during an afternoon news conference at the party’s headquarters in Des Moines. But as the DNC actively encourages states to move away from caucuses and toward primaries, even some Iowans questioned whether it’s time to abandon Iowa’s closely guarded caucus system.

Iowa: In major reform, 2020 Iowa caucuses would include absentee voting, public vote totals | Des Moines Register

Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential caucuses would break with decades of tradition in 2020 by allowing voters to cast absentee ballots and then releasing the raw total of votes won by each candidate. A Democratic National Committee panel known as the Unity Reform Commission set those changes into motion during a meeting here on Saturday, clearing the way for perhaps the most significant changes to the Iowa caucuses since they emerged as a key step in the presidential nominating process five decades ago. “There’s never been an absentee process. We’ve never released raw vote totals,” said Scott Brennan, a Des Moines attorney who serves on the DNC. “Those would seem to be pretty darn big changes.”

Utah: ‘Count My Vote’ readying 2018 ballot initiative to eliminate caucus/convention system for nominating candidates | Utah Policy has been told that the group behind Count My Vote has decided to run a citizen initiative petition in 2018 that will do away with the caucus/delegate/convention route for candidates and only allow candidates to get on the primary and general election ballots via gathering voter signatures. When CMV’s 2014 petition was in public discussion, various polls showed a majority of citizens supported the so-called “direct primary” option. Also, UtahPolicy is told the new initiative will say that any vacancy in a partisan office will be filled by special election. Right now it is usually filled by appointment by local party officials.

Colorado: GOP weighs whether to cancel its 2018 primary election | The Denver Post

The Colorado Republican Party is considering whether to cancel the June 2018 primary elections for Congress, the governor’s office and other offices, and instead nominate candidates through an existing caucus process dominated by insiders. The move is permitted under Proposition 108, a ballot question approved in 2016 that overhauls how major-party candidates are selected in Colorado and allows the state’s 1.4 million unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in either the Republican or Democratic primaries. A caveat in the new law allows political parties to opt out of the new law by a 75 percent vote of its central committee.

Nevada: State flirts with primaries while maligned caucus system prevails | Las Vegas Sun News

Long lines and frustrated voters that accompanied Nevada caucuses in 2016 were not enough to sway lawmakers toward a primary system. Legislative efforts from both parties to return to presidential primaries have failed to gain traction over the years, with the most recent failed push marked by concerns that Nevada would lose political prominence nationally. UNLV political science professor Michael W. Bowers, who took part in the 2016 caucuses, says it was a confused atmosphere for everyone. Volunteers struggled to handle the heavy turnout brought on by supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., he said. Bowers said the primary system would give more people the opportunity to participate and increase voter turnout. State elections officials would likely be better trained to run the primary, and the process would give more voting time to people who work or have religious obligations, such as Sabbath on Saturday.

Nevada: Assembly bill could clear way for presidential primary instead of caucus in Nevada | Las Vegas Review-Journal

Nevada’s political parties may have the option of offering voters a presidential primary in 2020 instead of a caucus system. Assembly Bill 293 would allow each political party to have a presidential preference primary instead of a caucus. The move could reshape how Nevada voters help pick the Republican and Democratic nominees for president. “This just adds another option on the menu,” Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, D-Las Vegas, told the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee on Tuesday. “If both parties still opt into the caucus system that they are using today, they are more than welcome to do so.”

Utah: After caucus chaos, lawmaker wants Utah to pay for primaries | Associated Press

To vote in Utah’s Democratic primary caucus last year, Kellie Henderson of Salt Lake City had to walk at least a mile and wait in line for three hours.
Henderson told Utah lawmakers on Tuesday that she had to trek from her home to the elementary school where her caucus was held because there was no parking nearby. At the school, she had to wait in a line for three hours before overwhelmed party volunteers running the caucus were able to help her cast a ballot. “It was just chaos,” Henderson said Tuesday. Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, wants to avoid a similar mess and has sponsored a bill requiring the state to pay for and run a presidential primary every four years. “Political parties should be in the business of trying to win elections, not run them,” Arent said.

Colorado: Voters dump presidential caucuses for primaries | The Hill

Colorado voters will pick their presidential nominees via primaries in 2020 after Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed two voter-passed propositions into law on Tuesday. Voters approved Proposition 107, which eliminates presidential preference caucuses, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in November. Voters passed Proposition 108, which allows all voters to participate in partisan primary elections, by a similar margin. The new rules mean all Colorado voters will be allowed to participate in any presidential primary they choose four years from now. Delegates allocated by the primaries will be bound to the winners at national party conventions, under the new state law.

Minnesota: State to ditch caucuses in favor of presidential primary | MPR

On Jan. 1, Minnesota joins the majority of U.S. states in choosing its presidential candidates in primary elections. Minnesota has used caucuses to choose presidential candidates throughout its voting history, save for three elections. While the first presidential primary under the new law won’t be held until March 2020, the system officially goes on the books Jan. 1, 2017. The shift from a caucus system to primaries is the most notable of the new laws taking effect in Minnesota at the change of the year. The others deal with minor changes to workers’ compensation and life insurance laws that won’t much affect the general public.

Minnesota: State Switches from Caucus to Primary Election System | Alpha News

Starting with the 2020 presidential race, Minnesota will replace its caucus system with a primary election. The change will allow Minnesotans to vote all day instead of having to show up at a specific time on a precinct caucus night. March 3, 2020 is the date set for the first presidential primary, unless an agreement is reached by state leaders to change the date. The state’s political parties may still choose to hold caucuses, and the primary election for other federal, state and local office will continue to be held in August. Over the past few presidential election years, Minnesota’s caucus system has been criticized by some as a means for the parties to prevent some people from engaging in voting for lesser-known candidates or those not supported by party leadership. The caucus format also was viewed as less-accessible for some voters: instead of having a full day to vote, people were required to show up to their precinct caucus during a specific window of time if they wanted their vote counted. Long lines and limited space in many of the caucus locations frustrated many voters and were viewed as a way for party elites to “skew” election turnout.

Iowa: Democrats consider absentee voting for Iowa caucuses | Des Moine Register

Iowa Democrats on Saturday cracked open the door toward allowing voters to participate in future Iowa presidential caucuses by absentee ballot. The Iowa Democratic Party Caucus Review Committee, meeting in Des Moines, discussed preliminary recommendations to the state party leadership to update the caucus process. Among the draft proposals would be to create a new process to allow more people to participate despite work conflicts, disabilities, out-of-state travel or the need for child care. “I think it’s a great way to expand access,” committee member Marcia Nichols of Des Moines said. “I think you are including people who are 24/7 workers, you’re including people who just can’t get to caucuses because of their physical limitation,” she said.

Editorials: Want to help end voter suppression? Junk the caucuses. | Jim Kessler/The Washington Post

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have vowed to tear down barriers to voting, especially for the poor and minorities. The Democratic Platform Committee has already heard testimony calling for changes to make it easier to vote. But no one is calling for a change Democrats could make to remove barriers to voting in their own party: junking caucus elections that are elitist, inconvenient, intimidating, anti-Democratic and suppress the vote. If voter suppression is truly a Democratic concern, consider that fewer people participated in the 17 caucus races in the recently completed Democratic nominating contest than those who turned out for the Wisconsin primary alone. These 17 caucus races with minuscule turnout selected 528 earned delegates to the convention. Wisconsin, where roughly the same number of voters cast a ballot, chose just 86 delegates. If that seems undemocratic, it is.

Colorado: A Switch From Caucus To Primary Is No Easy Matter | Colorado Public Radio

Voters unhappy with the political system this year and unsure about whether their vote matters have big complaints how the country’s two main political parties choose their candidates. A recent Associated Press-NORC poll found that about 40 percent of adults had hardly any confidence in the fairness of either party’s nominating process. In particular, party-run caucuses and closed primaries where only voters registered with a party are allowed to participate are viewed as unfair, with just 29 percent of respondents believing they’re the right way to pick a candidates for the general election. Those tensions are all on display in Colorado this year, where a series of events have caused voters to deeply question whether they should adopt a presidential primary open to all voters. But Colorado’s case also makes it clear that making big changes to how a state makes its picks for presidential nominees is no easy matter. For Colorado Democrats, the problem was crowding. Record turnout overwhelmed many precinct locations. Some voters waited hours to make their preference known, while others were turned away by fire marshals.

Colorado: Election study group hears mostly “no” on presidential primary | The Colorado Independent

If the first in a series of forums on Colorado’s caucus and primary system is any indication, voters love caucuses, despite the headaches, and strongly oppose moving back to a presidential primary system. Still in question is whether such forums – organized without legislative authorization by Senate Republicans – can be trusted to reflect the views of the general public. On Saturday, a group of mostly Republican state senators listened as voters, voter groups, and Libertarian and Republican party officials gave their assessment of the primary-overhaul proposals that died in the 2016 legislative session and shared their thoughts on what to do in future election years. The forum was noteworthy for the absence of Democrats. A spokesman for Colorado’s Democratic Party said Chairman Rick Palacio wasn’t invited to the forum until the last minute and declined to participate in what on Twitter he called a “work of fiction.”

Editorials: America’s voting system is broken. It’s time to overhaul it | Trevor Timm/The Guardian

There’s no debate at this point that Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote and the delegate count to win the Democratic primary. But even Clinton supporters should agree that our supposedly “democratic” system for picking nominees for president is terribly broken and should be dramatically overhauled. It’s not just Bernie Sanders’ campaign that should (and has) argued that the voting system in this country is “rigged”. Virtually every major campaign in both parties griped about how the other was winning at some point during this campaign, and along the way almost all of them were right. First, there are the delegates themselves – the “representatives” that voters “choose” to express their interests at the party conventions (but sometimes don’t have to comply). Each state has its own rules for how delegates are allocated, and they are almost always ridiculously complicated. In both parties, delegate counts regularly do not match up to the percentage of votes candidates received in the primaries. For example, as Fusion’s Felix Salmon demonstrated in March, Trump had dramatically more delegates than his percentage of the Republican vote at that point, and Sanders had dramatically fewer delegates than his percentage on the Democratic side.

Editorials: Ideas on Reconciling Critics of the Presidential Primary Process | Albert R. Hunt/The New York Times

It’s rare that President Obama and Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, agree. In recent weeks, they both have said that the presidential nominating process is not rigged. They are right. But that hasn’t stopped those displeased with the results — not only establishment Republicans but also Democrats who support Senator Bernie Sanders — from insisting on changing the rules for the next election. Some tweaks are always in order, but both sides are trying to craft procedures that would have benefited them this time. As with generals fighting the last war, experience shows this rarely works and often backfires. “Every time someone tries to game out this system,” said Benjamin Ginsberg, a leading Republican election lawyer, “the great law of unintended consequences rears its head.”

Utah: GOP to continue legal fight against SB54 | Deseret News

The Utah Republican Party voted on Saturday to continue its fight against a state election law that the party believes circumvents its caucus and convention system. Giving up “is not an option,” said state party Chairman James Evans. “At the end of the day, the Republican brand is greater than the skirmish of the day.” Evans counseled county chairpersons at Saturday’s State Central Committee meeting to make strategic decisions that will “lift the party” long-term, even though at least one person voiced concern about declining morale in their county due to a lack of support for candidates who went the signature-gathering route provided by SB54. “We have no guarantee they buy into any aspect of our platforms,” said Utah County Republican Party Chairman Craig Frank. “We call them the small r’s, by the way.”

Editorials: Two myths about the unruly American primary system | Richard Hasen/The Washington Post

In yesterday’s New York Times, a story suggests that after this year’s election, the U.S. political parties might struggle over whether to re-design our primary system. But before we think about potential changes, let’s examine the unique system we have today — and expose two myths usually told about how we got here. Many Americans will be surprised to learn that few democracies give primary elections a dominant role in selecting their parties’ nominees for the country’s highest office. In most systems, elected party members take a major role in choosing or filtering potential candidates. In Britain, for example, to be a Labour Party nominee for prime minister, you need to be nominated by 15 percent of Labour’s members in Parliament; the Conservative Party members nominate just two candidates. The wider party membership then chooses from this narrowed field, although only 1 percent of registered voters are party members (compared with 60 percent or so in the United States), because party membership entails more significant obligations. But starting in the 1970s, the United States stumbled — and I do mean stumbled — into a system that eliminated any meaningful role for party figures. Instead, unmediated popular participation, through caucuses and primary elections, came to control the way we choose presidential nominees. That uniquely populist system, which we now take for granted, has culminated in our current, stunning moment. Two essentially freelance, independent political figures — Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — will either represent, or come surprisingly close to representing, the nation’s two major parties in the 2016 election.

Minnesota: State moves to presidential primary in 2020 | Pioneer Press

Minnesota will move from a presidential caucus to a presidential primary for the 2020 election. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the switch into law on Sunday. Under the new system, voters would make their February partisan presidential picks in an election run by the state, rather than in caucuses run by parties. Whether individual voters picked a Republican ballot or a Democratic one would become public, under the new law. But voters would not be bound in any way to their partisan picks in future elections nor would they have to register with any party in advance of the presidential primary.

Minnesota: Senate approves move to presidential primary | Duluth News Tribune

After two decades of complaints about the Minnesota presidential caucus system, the state is moving swiftly to adopt a presidential primary. The state Senate overwhelmingly approved a presidential primary measure, which would negate the need for a presidential caucus in 2020. The House is following in the same vein and may give the measure a final vote on Friday. After a crush of people crowded into thousands of caucus sites across Minnesota in February, Minnesota voters, party leaders and others decided it was time to switch to a primary. “Despite the valiant efforts from thousands of volunteers, we also experienced some chaos,” Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said of the 2016 caucus crush. Rest is the sponsor of the bill making the switch. Under the primary plan, parties would still have caucuses but the binding presidential preference vote would be held during a primary.

Colorado: Presidential primary revival falls apart | The Coloradoan

Bipartisan efforts to revive presidential primaries in Colorado have failed — for now. A long debate over presidential primaries in Colorado ended in failure Tuesday at the state Legislature. Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature could not agree on how to revive a statewide primary instead of precinct caucuses in 2020. With a deadline looming Tuesday, talks broke down on two separate plans to bring back primaries. The legislative stalemate means that Coloradans could see a ballot measure this fall asking about bringing back the primaries, at a cost of about $5 million. Colorado held presidential primaries from 1992 to 2000. But the state switched back to caucuses in 2004 to save money. Political parties pay the tab for caucuses, though taxpayers would be responsible for running an election.

Colorado: Presidential preference primary would replace caucusing if House bill is successful | Colorado Springs Gazette

Colorado would hold a presidential preference primary in 2020 instead of caucusing on the nominee under a bill that passed the state House of Representatives preliminarily Thursday evening. The bill was introduced with only a few weeks remaining in the 2016 General Assembly in response to discontent about how the March 1 caucuses for Republicans and Democrats were conducted. It passed on second reading Thursday and now heads to the Senate for consideration. But it is also an insurance policy against a handful of proposed ballot initiatives that would ask voters in November to change Colorado’s primary system. Some of those would get rid of caucuses, but some also propose opening up Colorado’s primary process so unaffiliated voters could participate. Under current law unaffiliated voters would have to change their party registration to participate in that party’s caucus.

Iowa: Democrats hear caucus advice from GOP | Des Moines Register

Democrats considering changes in the Iowa caucus process heard advice Saturday from an unusual source: Republicans. Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann and veteran GOP activist David Oman spoke at the first meeting of the Iowa Democratic Party’s 20-member caucus review committee. The committee was organized after Democrats drew complaints and concerns about their historically close Feb 1. caucuses. Some of the Democrats on the committee indicated an interest in borrowing from the GOP process. Some even suggested using a simple vote to determine the caucus winner rather than intricate dance of preference groups and delegate equivalents that make the Democrats’ process seem obscure and inaccessible.

Colorado: ‘Folks Are Angry’ About Colorado’s Caucus System. But Is A Primary The Answer? | CPR

This year might have been your last chance to participate in a presidential caucus in Colorado. State lawmakers are considering switching to a primary after widespread frustration with how the process went this time around. For Democrats, record turnout meant overcrowded precincts, with some voters facing long waits and meetings that moved outside into the frosty March night. For Republicans, the party’s decision to drop their caucus straw poll left many members disappointed and disenchanted — especially supporters of Donald Trump, who felt the change was made specifically to disadvantage their candidate. “Folks are angry,” said state Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City. “And if we want to show them we heard them, then we should do something this legislative session.”

Minnesota: Push to convert from caucuses to primaries cools at Capitol | Minnesota Public Radio

It was a hot issue a couple months ago. But with less than three weeks left in the 2016 session, Minnesota lawmakers have yet to pass a bill to establish a statewide presidential primary. Supporters of the proposed switch were hoping to strike quickly, while memories of packed March 1 precinct caucuses were still fresh. But a state Senate hearing Tuesday showed many questions remain about how a presidential primary would work. State Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, told members of the Senate Finance Committee that a new primary would allow more voters to participate in the presidential nomination process, either in-person or by absentee ballot. But Rest noted that the two major parties insisted on a key requirement.

Colorado: Bill to restore Colorado presidential primary is before lawmakers | The Denver Post

Legislation to restore a presidential primary in Colorado passed its first committee hurdle Monday, as lawmakers race to get it done by the end of the session May 11. House Bill 1454 would allow every voter — even those registered as unaffiliated with a party — to cast a mail ballot in a presidential primary in 2020. Coloradans would have their first presidential primary since 2000, before the state returned to the caucus system in 2004. The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee voted 5-4 along party lines, with Republicans in opposition. Under the bill, unaffiliated voters would pick which party’s ballot they wish to receive, then that temporary affiliation would go away 30 days after the vote.

Minnesota: Primary vs. caucus: State legislature, governor seem ready to make change | St, Paul Pioneer Press

After more than 321,000 Minnesotans stuffed themselves into schools, churches, fire halls, snowmobile groups and Lions Clubs across the state to take part in presidential picking last month, Capitol and party leaders, as well as many voters, decided it is time for a change. Within days of the March 1 caucuses, leaders and their constituents began clamoring for the state to move from a presidential caucus system to a presidential primary. The volume was too great, the lines were too long and the caucus sites too chaotic for the system to continue, supporters said. Despite bogging down on other issues, the Legislature and the governor appear ready to make the change. In both the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor controlled Senate, measures to change the 2020 presidential selection process into a primary are zipping along.