National: DNC move against phone-in caucuses pits cybersecurity vs. voter participation | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The Democratic National Committee’s decision to recommend scrapping phone-in virtual caucuses in Iowa and Nevada is pitting security hawks, who say those systems are ripe for hacking, against Democratic activists who want to increase voter participation. The DNC announcement on Friday comes after a test of the phone-in systems showed they were vulnerable to hacking, as my colleagues Isaac Stanley-Becker and Michael Scherer reported. That confirmed the suspicions of cybersecurity experts who have long argued there’s no way to ensure the authenticity of votes that aren’t cast in person — including votes cast by email, websites or mobile phones. But it was a blow to activists who want to make it easier for people to participate in the democratic process — and who say lengthy in-person caucuses exclude people who work long hours or are caring for young children. Iowa and Nevada developed their phone-in systems after the DNC urged caucus states in 2018 to either switch to primaries — which are speedier  — or make it easier for people to participate remotely. The Iowa system would have allowed voters to register for a unique PIN number and use that PIN when they called in to vote for a candidate, my colleagues reported. The DNC move also sparked the ire of some 2020 presidential hopefuls.

Iowa: A Virtual Iowa Caucus Would Have Been A Hacking Nightmare | Maggie Koerth-Baker/FiveThirtyEight

When the Democratic National Committee put the kibosh on plans for virtual caucuses in Iowa and Nevada, they may have pissed off the people who saw the event as a chance to give more people the opportunity to vote. But at least the DNC made the cybersecurity community happy. “It was absolutely the right decision,” said Herb Lin, senior research scholar at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. Lin and other experts praised the DNC for deciding the risks of a virtual caucus outweighed the benefits of making the time-consuming and byzantine caucus system more accessible. Yes, that has thrown state parties into a bit of chaos as they scramble to come up with new plans by a Sept. 13 deadline. But, Lin and others told me, there’s no getting around the fact that a virtual caucus would be massively hackable — easy to steal, and even easier to simply disrupt. If anything, they said, they wished more political leaders would take the same stance against such schemes, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Editorials: When It Comes to Voting, You Can’t Phone It In | Stephen L. Carter/Bloomberg

A lot of people are excited about recent research suggesting that mobile voting would mean more voters casting ballots. No doubt the premise is correct. If you lower the cost of an activity, you get more of it. Still, there are reasons to be skeptical. In the third place, the security risks are obvious. In the second place, as regular readers know, I’ve long questioned whether higher turnout leads to better results. But in the first place, even if mobile voting resulted in a greater number of votes cast, we shouldn’t refer to the result as higher “turnout.” Whatever we might call it, that’s the wrong word. The notion of voter turnout has long conjured images of crowded polling places, neighbors chatting as long lines shuffle forward.  Not all traditions are valuable, but here a bit of etymology teaches an important lesson about democracy.

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: Fearing Hackers, D.N.C. Plans to Block Iowa’s ‘Virtual’ Caucuses | Reid J. Epstein/The New York Times

The Democratic National Committee is preparing to block Iowa Democrats’ plans to allow some caucusgoers to vote by phone next year, bowing to security concerns about the process being hacked, according to four people with knowledge of the decision. The committee’s announcement, expected to come by Friday afternoon in the form of a recommendation to the party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, serves as a major setback to Democrats who have long hoped to expand the caucus-state electorate beyond those voters able to attend a winter-night gathering for several hours. The Iowa Democrats’ plan would have allowed voters not attending a traditional caucus to register their preference during one of six “virtual caucuses” over the phone. But D.N.C. security officials told the rules committee at a closed-door session in San Francisco last week that they had “no confidence” such a system could remain safe from hostile hackers. The D.N.C.’s leadership concluded that the technology that exists is not secure and poses too large a risk of interference from a foreign adversary, according to officials with knowledge of the deliberations. Several presidential campaigns expressed concern to top party officials that Iowa’s results could be compromised, people familiar with the discussions said Thursday.

Nevada: DNC to recommend scrapping Iowa, Nevada virtual caucus plans | Associated Press

The Democratic National Committee will recommend scrapping state plans to offer virtual, telephone-based caucuses in 2020 due to security concerns, sources tell The Associated Press. The final choice whether to allow virtual caucuses in Iowa and Nevada is up to the party’s powerful Rules and Bylaws Committee. But opposition from DNC’s executive and staff leadership makes it highly unlikely the committee would keep the virtual caucuses, leaving two key early voting states and the national party a short time to fashion an alternative before the February caucuses. The state parties had planned to allow some voters to cast caucus votes over the telephone in February 2020 instead of showing up at traditional caucus meetings. Iowa and Nevada created the virtual option to meet a DNC mandate that states open caucuses to more people, but two sources with knowledge of party leaders’ deliberations say there are concerns that the technology used for virtual caucuses could be subject to hacking. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose internal party discussions.

Nevada: Iowa, Nevada to Launch Caucus Voting by Phone for 2020 | Michelle L. Price and Thomas Beaumont/Associated Press

Democrats in the early presidential contest states of Iowa and Nevada will be able to cast their votes over the telephone instead of showing up at their states’ traditional neighborhood caucus meetings next February, according to plans unveiled by the state parties. The tele-caucus systems, the result of a mandate from the Democratic National Committee, are aimed at opening the local-level political gatherings to more people, especially evening shift-workers and people with disabilities, whom critics of the caucuses have long said are blocked from the process. The changes are expected to boost voter participation across the board, presenting a new opportunity for the Democratic Party’s 2020 candidates to drive up support in the crucial early voting states. “This is a no-excuse option” for participation, said Shelby Wiltz, the Nevada Democrats’ caucus director. Party officials don’t have an estimate of how many voters will take advantage of the call-in option. But in Iowa, some recent polls show as many as 20% of Democrats will participate virtually. In Nevada, most voters tend to cast ballots early during regular elections, and party officials expect many will take advantage of the early presidential vote. While rolling out a new voting system holds the promise of more voter participation, it also comes with potential risk for confusion or technical troubles. But the party is moving forward to try and address long-standing criticism that the caucuses are exclusionary and favor some candidates over others.