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Wed Jan 30, 2019, 04:27 PM

Why the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses could become a definitive showcase for online voting


If all goes according to plans now being drafted, Iowa’s 2020 Democratic presidential caucuses may be the biggest demonstration of — and test for — online voting in a single U.S. election in years.

But before participating in Iowa’s caucuses online from home or a coffee shop becomes a reality on February 3, 2020, its state Democratic Party must deploy a formidable voting infrastructure and a legion of trained operators to avoid a mix of human errors and technical issues that have marred online participation in recent Republican presidential and statewide caucuses.


These incidents underscore the challenges faced by Iowa’s Democratic Party to bring online participation to the 2020 caucus. While there are always difficulties in deploying new systems, company technologists and executives who have successfully deployed online voting — mostly overseas — didn’t say that the Iowa party could not rise to the challenge. But almost all said that the time for planning and preparation was tight, and many factors — technological and human — had to be properly anticipated and countered under the best of circumstances. Several said they saw no upside in their firms bidding for an Iowa contract.

Nonetheless, the party is now finishing its draft of plans allowing registered Democrats who are not present to participate, said Kevin Geiken, the party’s executive director. He estimated that 100,000 registered Democratic Iowans could participate online in 2020. That would be in addition to the number of people who physically attend the party’s 1,679 caucuses — 171,500 Iowans took part in 2016.

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