It will take place less than a year from now. It will attract more news coverage than any other news event in 2015 and 2016 except perhaps the Summer Olympics and the final two weeks of the presidential campaign. Yes, the Iowa caucuses are less than 11 months away. Americans are beginning a year-long examination of the voters of one state and its quirky electoral process. So get ready for the deluge of punditry on the implications of the presidential preferences of slightly more than 300,000 likely Iowa Caucus attendees. Much will be made of the likely results of the caucuses, and indeed about the actual results, but little written on the peculiar characteristics of what has become an American democratic institution — an institution that may not be that democratic at all.
Leaders of the Democratic Party adopted their 2016 presidential nominating calendar on Saturday, setting the stage for a successor to President Barack Obama. The Democratic National Committee, or DNC, approved rules for its 2016 convention along with a primary schedule that will begin with the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, 2016, followed by voting later that month in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. The 2016 framework is in line with plans pushed by Republicans and gives states incentives to hold their primary contests between March and June, aiming to avoid a front-loaded calendar that encroaches on the Christmas holidays. Pointing to the 2016 national meeting, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz predicted it will be the convention where “we will nominate the 45th president of the United States of America.” The plans were approved unanimously without any discussion.
Utah: Legislature fails to pass bill to jump ahead of Iowa in presidential contest | Des Moines Register
Utah lawmakers were unsuccessful in their effort to push their state to the front of the presidential selection process. Iowa holds the spotlight every four years as presidential hopefuls pour into the state to audition for the White House, trailed by the national press. No other state votes before the Iowa caucuses. A proposal that would have required Utah to hold the first presidential voting contest in the country, and for voting would take place online, didn’t make the cut last night. Earlier this week, the Utah House overwhelmingly approved HB410 and sent it to the state Senate for further consideration. But records show it never came up for a Senate vote. It got stuck in a logjam of bills that were defeated when the legislature adjourned at midnight, as required by the state constitution.
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. Both Republican and Democratic leaders say Iowa’s leadoff spot in presidential voting is assured for the 2016 cycle, but beyond then, its privileged position remains precarious. The 2012 GOP debacle escalated ever-present criticism, and other states constantly maneuver in an attempt to grab the leadoff voting prize. Iowa Republican Party officials say changes in caucus procedures will be made this spring. They’ve been carefully weighing options, working in concert with the national party, Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker said.
The Republican party is on the brink of dealing a major blow to Iowa’s traditional caucus system, with the process’ critics pointing to recent battles over military voting rights to make the case for ending traditional nominating contest. Chris Brown, Chairman of the Young Republican Federation of Alabama and a member of the Republican Convention’s Rules Committee, is expected introduce a measure tomorrow requiring states to use “every means practicable” to ensure that military voters can cast ballots in any process used in the Republican presidential nominating process, according to a person involved in the effort. The measure will be seconded by influential Ohio GOP chair Bob Bennett, who has been a member of the RNC for more than two decades, the source said. Caucuses — by definition in-person voting systems — would not satisfy the proposed rule, requiring dramatic changes to the process in Iowa and other caucus states, if not their outright abandonment. “The Rule will simply guarantee the right of military voters and wounded warriors to vote in the process of selecting the delegates who will choose our party’s presidential nominee,” wrote former RNC Chairman and former VA Secretary Jim Nicholson in an email to members of the Rules Committee, which was obtained by BuzzFeed, asking that they end “the inexcusable practice of disenfranchising military voters in our party’s presidential delegate selection process.”
Sometimes, a few votes make a huge difference. Just ask Rick Santorum. In January, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses, but, because of vote counting and tabulation errors, Mitt Romney was declared the winner. In the two weeks before the error became clear, Romney’s campaign gained momentum, while Santorum’s withered. Unfortunately, the same problem – or worse – could easily occur in Massachusetts. This year, voters will choose the president, and control of the US Senate may come down to the race shaping up between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren.
After a late night of vote counting, the Iowa GOP announced Mitt Romney as the caucuses’ tentative winner, having staved off Rick Santorum by a mere eight votes. “The good news is we were able to verify the vote reports tonight,” then-chairman Matt Strawn said at a news conference, noting that Iowa’s 1,774 precincts would have two weeks to certify their vote tallies. Two weeks later, the Iowa GOP announced that Santorum had won by 34 votes. Eight precincts, meanwhile, could not be certified, and a party official made it clear that the votes would never be counted. A week and a half later, Strawn resigned as party chairman. The Iowa GOP has now set itself to the task of figuring out what happened and how to fix it next time, having formed an Iowa Caucus Review Committee comprised of 17 party members including county chairs, former state-party officials, party activists, volunteers and supporters of multiple presidential campaigns. Next Thursday, the committee will convene its first meeting, where it will hear the first round of reports from subcommittees on vote tabulation, public information and volunteer training.
Top Republicans are calling for a review of the methods used in presidential caucuses after a series of vote-counting mishaps in three early states. Maine on Tuesday became the latest state to fall victim to the caucus bug, with a local report noting that the state GOP declared Mitt Romney the winner of a close race without many localities reporting votes in the totals, including some that had submitted their results and some whose caucuses were set for later this month. It was just the latest foible in what has been a very rough year for the caucus format.
Editorials: Congress should kill the Republican and Democratic state caucuses and mandate primaries instead | Rick Hasen/Slate Magazine
In the last few weeks, the Keystone Kops have taken over the Republican presidential caucuses. First Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses by a scant eight votes, and then Republican Party officials in Iowa said that there were so many local reporting problems that a winner could not be declared even though Rick Santorum was 34 votes ahead. Oops, they declared Santorum the winner anyway. In Nevada, Republican officials decided to hold a special late-night session of their Saturday caucus to accommodate Orthodox Jews and Seventh-day Adventists. This caused an uproar when Ron Paul supporters objected to requiring the late-comers to sign a statement that their religious obligations prevented earlier attendance, saying that people who had to work during the day should have the right to vote at the late-night caucus, too. Adding to the tumult, it took election officials in one Nevada county an extra day to count a small number of votes and deal with a “trouble box” of disputed ballots. Now comes news from Maine that Mitt Romney may not have won the Maine caucuses by 200 votes as initially reported, because some ballots have gone uncounted.
Editorials: Maine, Iowa Caucus Mishaps Prove It’s Time for a Better System | John Avlon/The Daily Beast
After the epic fail of Iowa’s caucuses—falsely naming Mitt Romney the winner for more than a month—now it looks like there’s trouble brewing in the Maine caucuses as well. Romney was named the narrow winner in Maine on Saturday over Ron Paul—gaining him a triumphant top-of-the-fold photo in the Sunday New York Times—but it now appears that several counties that held caucuses were not calculated in the “final” tally. According to the Bangor Daily News, there is growing pressure on the state GOP to reassess the votes and at least potentially declare a new winner. There’s got to be a better way to pick a presidential nominee.
The presidential caucus system is under attack after embarrassing contests in Iowa and Nevada put on national display missing ballots, endless counting delays and lots of confusion. The result is Republican activists calling for big change to the antiquated system, particularly to the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. “All the candidates are out there slogging around at Christmastime and New Year’s, and then they produce a non-result result and they can’t even get the count right,” said David Norcross, a former Republican National Committee general counsel and New Jersey GOP committeeman. Norcross told POLITICO that Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucuses were “numbingly stupid.” “How foolish is it for everyone to go to Iowa the first week in January when there are no delegates selected and they can’t even get the vote right? It’s just a joke, it’s Iowa’s joke on you and all of us.”
Editorials: Assessing the Minnesota Caucuses – Final Thoughts On Why It is Times to Scrap Them | Schultz’s Take
Minnesota’s February 7, political caucuses meant something this year…sort of. This year they were part of a trifecta of non-binding events that included the Colorado caucus and the Missouri primary that awarded no delegates but nonetheless had a significant media impact in rendering Rick Santorum a viable challenger to Mitt Romney. In winning these three states the political world heralded that the party activists had again repudiated Romney. Thus, Minnesota’s caucuses had a signal effect even if no delegates were awarded. But there are real problems with the caucus process in Minnesota and across the country. Criticism of the Iowa caucus is growing as arguments are again mounted that it should not be first int nation since no delegates are awarded and its demographics are not representative of the country.
Imagine this: You’re the Super Bowl host city, and you’ve gone to a lot of trouble to get the big game in your town. Now everyone’s watching as the game comes to an end, and you can’t get the scoreboard to work. Suddenly no one’s sure who’s ahead or how much time is left to play. That nightmare scenario probably could not happen. But we have seen some highly improbable events lately that embarrassed the host states in the presidential nominating process. Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn resigned this week, taking the hit for the botch that was made of the caucus count in his state last month. Mitt Romney was initially declared the winner, then told he had finished second by 34 votes behind Rick Santorum. But the party admitted it was not really sure, and some votes might be missing. Ouch.
The errors started to emerge even before Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa caucus by eight votes. By the time the results were certified two weeks later, mistakes had been found in so many districts that the state Republican Party chairman declared that it would be impossible to determine a winner. Critics responded almost immediately with a seemingly obvious assertion: real elections have winners. But even after the party chairman reversed himself and called the race for Rick Santorum, many state leaders justified the confusion in a way that may appear at odds with the level of attention awarded the first-in-the-nation caucus: This was not, in fact, a real election.
Iowa: Matt Strawn resigns as Iowa GOP chair – resignation letter does not mention Iowa caucus results | Politico.com
Matt Strawn, the Iowa GOP chairman who has been embroiled in controversy since the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus results, is resigning, he announced Tuesday. “It is only because the Iowa GOP has returned as a strong and relevant voice in Iowa politics that I am now able to evaluate all the competing priorities in my personal, business and political life. The party is strong and has the resources in place for victory in November,” Strawn said in a statement. “Now is the time to transition to new leadership.” Strawn, who has chaired the state party since 2009, left his post after the Iowa GOP fumbled the results of the caucuses, initially declaring Mitt Romney the 8-vote winner. Two weeks later, on the eve of the South Carolina primary, the party reversed that decision and certified Rick Santorum the winner by 34 votes. The state GOP statement declaring Santorum the winner was released “in order to clarify conflicting reports.”
The winner of the 2012 caucuses, we now know, was Rick Santorum. The loser, it’s becoming clear, was Iowa. The certified results released this week from the nation’s first presidential nominating contest revealed that Mitt Romney’s declared eight-vote victory on caucus night was actually a 34-vote defeat. They revealed that eight voting precincts went missing in action, and their votes will never be counted. And they were accompanied by evolving statements from the Republican Party of Iowa, which, having initially called the race for Romney, first declared this week’s result a “split decision” and only later acknowledged victory for Santorum.
On the eve of the South Carolina primary, Iowa Republicans dealt Mitt Romney’s campaign a blow by formally declaring Rick Santorum the winner of their Jan. 3 caucuses. At 18 minutes before midnight Friday, South Carolina time, the Republican Party of Iowa released a statement revising its Thursday announcement that reported Santorum ahead of Romney but also saying the two-week-old race had no clear winner.
Amid the swirl of developments on Thursday came word from the Iowa Republican Party that it had certified the results from the state’s Jan. 3 caucuses — and that Rick Santorum, not Mitt Romney, had gotten more votes. Mr. Santorum received 29,839 votes in the state’s certified tally, 34 more than Mr. Romney, who had 29,805. Iowa Republicans were hesitant to deem Mr. Santorum the winner, however. Early Thursday morning, the state party chairman, Matt Strawn, instead described the result as having been “too close to call.” Later, Mr. Strawn was somewhat clearer. “One thing that is irrefutable is that in these 1,776 certified precincts, the Republican Party was able to certify and report Rick Santorum was the winner of the certified precinct vote total by 34 votes,” he told reporters, He cautioned, however, that there was ambiguity in the outcome because the results from eight other precincts were unaccounted for and had never been certified. How safe is it to assume that Mr. Santorum in fact won? And does any of this matter, other than to historians and data geeks?
Not surprisingly, the recent news about the muddled finish in the GOP Iowa caucuses has got people talking about what it means to say an election is “over”. To an election official, an election is over when the outcome has been certified according to applicable state or local law. At that point, the process for that election is “final-final” and in the books. That’s why election administrators are so insistent about calling Election Night returns “unofficial” returns; experience teaches that lots of factors – including everything from math errors to multiparty litigation – can make the Election Night results turn out to be incomplete or incorrect.
Iowa: Who won the Iowa primary – and does it matter from a technical perspective? | Jeremy Epstein/Freedom to Tinker
As Americans know, the 2012 presidential season began “officially” with the Iowa caucuses on January 3. I say “officially”, because caucuses are a strange beast that are a creation of political parties, and not government. Regardless, the Republican results were interesting – out of about 125,000 votes cast, Mitt Romney led by eight votes over Rick Santorum, with other contenders far behind. The “official” results released today show Santorum ahead by 34 votes. However, it’s not so simple as that.
The Iowa state GOP says their certified results show Rick Santorum winning by a 34-vote margin over Mitt Romney, a reversal of Romney’s reported caucus night lead of 8 votes — but the party has nevertheless called the result a “split decision,” citing the matter of 8 missing precincts. But those precincts aren’treally missing. “I can’t speculate without documentation from the missing eight,” Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn told the Des Moines Register. “The comments I made at 1:30 a.m. Jan. 4 congratulating both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum still apply. I don’t think the certified vote totals take anything away from either Governor Romney or Senator Santorum.”
In a stunning turn of events, Rick Santorum now appears to have won the Iowa caucuses, though the state’s Republican Party says there are too many holes in the results for them to ever be able to say for certain. The party, which runs the caucuses, has done a recount since the Jan. 3 voting, and told the Des Moines Register the tally now shows Mr. Santorum up by 34 votes. On caucus night the party said Mitt Romney had won by eight votes. The news dents Mr. Romney’s air of inevitability — he had claimed he’d gone two-for-two in the first nominating contests, and was poised to try to land a knockout punch with a victory in South Carolina’s primary on Saturday. Still, he was claiming a victory of sorts Thursday morning.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum wound up with a 34-vote lead in the Iowa caucuses, reversing the 8-point margin for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney that had been reported in the small hours of the morning of Jan. 4. But Iowa Republican officials are still calling the results a tie, in that the official tallies from eight precincts are still missing from the certified count completed two weeks after the 1,774 precincts reported. Mr. Santorum claimed victory on Twitter. “Thank you Iowa for the win!” read a tweet from the official @RickSantorum account. “I encourage enveryone to join our fight in South Carolina! Game on!”
Iowa: Iowa caucus count unresolved – Santorum finished ahead by 34 votes but 8 precincts’ numbers will never be certified | Des Moines Register
It’s a tie for the ages. There are too many holes in the certified totals from the Iowa caucuses to know for certain who won, but Rick Santorum wound up with a 34-vote advantage. Results from eight precincts are missing — any of which could hold an advantage for Mitt Romney — and will never be recovered and certified, Republican Party of Iowa officials told The Des Moines Register on Wednesday.
Did Rick Santorum win the Iowa caucus? That’s what it looks like if numbers from a caucus in the town of Moulton, Appanoose County, are correctly counted when the official certification begins Wednesday night. This not only would rewrite the election history of 2012 to date—it would invalidate the oft-repeated line that Mitt Romney is the only candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. It would stop the inevitability narrative in its tracks. This possibility has the Iowa state GOP under new scrutiny as they begin the official certification process, which they have promised to complete by the end of the week. The national media to date has largely dismissed this story—which was first reported by local Des Moines station KCCI—apparently choosing to trust the state GOP’s initial off-the-record assurances that the story had zero credibility.
The waiting game continues for Iowans — and Republican presidential candidates — who want to know if Mitt Romney really won the Iowa caucuses two weeks ago today. Counties have until the close of business Wednesday to get their official paperwork with caucus results to the Republican Party of Iowa, and certification should be wrapped up by the end of this week, party officials said Monday. Even then, it’s possible there will always be a question mark hanging over the race.
It’s conventional wisdom in Republican circles here in South Carolina that if Mitt Romney wins the state’s primary this Saturday — having already won in Iowa and New Hampshire — he’ll be the GOP presidential nominee. But what if Romney did not actually win Iowa? That could change the calculation considerably. And there is a very real chance that the Republican Party of Iowa will announce this week that Rick Santorum, and not Romney, won the Iowa caucuses. Results released on caucus night — actually, at 2 the next morning — showed Romney won by eight votes, 30,015 to Santorum’s 30,007. Many observers assumed that those results were final, especially when party officials said there would be no recount. But the results were not final.
Rick Santorum says the Iowa caucuses may not be over yet. Eleven days after he was declared a very narrow second place finisher — behind Mitt Romney by just eight votes — the former Pennsylvania senator predicted Saturday at a town hall meeting in here that a recount could put him on top. After a long count that went deep into the night on Jan. 3, Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn announced the results that had Santorum behind Romney. But Santorum says he’s getting the feeling that he may still edge ahead.
Iowa’s Republican chairman said on Saturday that the vote count from a disputed precinct had been deemed official by the Iowa Republican Party, despite multiple accounts of a vote-counting discrepancy that could potentially have made Rick Santorum the winner of the Iowa caucuses. The disputed precinct is in Appanoose County, which has already submitted its certification forms, the chairman, Matt Strawn, said in a statement to The New York Times.
“Appanoose County has submitted all its required Form E’s for all precincts in Appanoose County,” Mr. Strawn wrote in an e-mail to The Times, referring to the form by which the Republican Party of Iowa certifies its votes on a county-by-county basis. “Now that we have all the county’s forms at Iowa G.O.P. HQ for the two-week certification process, my statement from Thursday night still applies: While we will not comment on specific precinct vote totals during the two-week certification process of 1,774 precincts, the results of the Appanoose County precincts will not change the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.”
At just before 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn addressed reporters who had spent the night following the historically close Republican caucus race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. The margin separating the candidates was small — eight votes — but he was prepared to declare a victor. “Congratulations to Governor Mitt Romney, the winner of the 2012 Iowa caucuses,” Mr. Strawn said.
Mr. Romney’s victory is unofficial — the counties have up to two weeks from the caucuses to send their final certified results to the state party. However, there is no provision for a recount in the caucuses, and the campaign which might have the most interest in pursuing one — Mr. Santorum’s — is making no effort to challenge the results. Still, given Mr. Romney’s exceptionally small margin of victory, a single discrepancy could potentially reverse the outcome. On Wednesday, a voter in the town of Moulton in Appanoose County, Iowa claimed to have found one.
The voter, Edward True, signed an affidavit which stated that he had helped to count the vote after the caucus at the Garrett Memorial Library in Moulton. Mr. True claims that the results listed on the Google spreadsheet maintained by the Iowa Republican Party differed substantially from the count that had been taken at the caucus site. Mr. Romney had received only two votes in his precinct, Mr. True’s affidavit said, but had been given credit for 22 by the state. That would be enough to flip Mr. Romney’s eight-vote victory into a 12-vote win for Mr. Santorum.