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VICTOR JOECKS: Iowa caucus fiasco shows need for election security

The party that wants to run our nation’s health care system can’t even count 170,000 votes in Iowa.

On Monday, Iowa held its presidential caucuses. President Donald Trump overwhelmingly won the Republican caucuses. By midday Tuesday, Iowa Democrats hadn’t released any results from their caucus yet. As the evening began, they had only partial results that showed Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders leading.

This year, the Iowa Democratic Party choose to use a smartphone app to tally results. The app was supposed to make reporting quicker and provide more transparency. It didn’t work. Precinct chairs reported problems downloading the app or submitting data. The backup plan was to phone in results. But when the app failed, the phone lines were jammed with calls. Instead of providing results on Monday night, party leaders decided to withhold everything to perform “quality control.”

Troy Price, state party chair, blamed a “coding issue.” The delay, he said, wasn’t the result of hacking or other cyber espionage. Price claims the underlying data is accurate, but that they’re taking their time to uphold the “integrity and accuracy of the process.”

That wasn’t enough to stop conspiracy theories from running wild, especially after Buttigieg declared himself the winner before results came out. In a tweet, Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King suggested a connection between Buttigieg’s campaign and the failed election app. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Sanders supporter, retweeted a journalist drawing a connection between Buttigieg and the app. A New York Times editorial writer suggested that the Democratic National Committee rigged the vote, because it looked like Sanders was going to do well.

Sanders supporters have good reason to be suspicious of the DNC. Four years ago, it worked hand-in-glove with the Hillary Clinton campaign. That coordination denied Sanders an even playing field in the Democratic primary.

It didn’t help then when media outlets started reporting that the failed app is connected to former Clinton staffers. If you want to get conspiratorial, the person most helped by this fiasco is Joe Biden. The evidence suggests he had a very disappointing night, but understandably, the media is focusing on the lack of results. Sen. Chris Dodd, a Biden supporter, suggested that the eventual results may not be trustworthy.

The Trump campaign joined the fray too. Campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted, “Quality control = rigged?”

Whatever happens, this discord has given Democrat voters reason to distrust the process. Presumably, a person’s faith in the integrity of the process will correspond to how well their favored candidate performed.

What happened in Iowa is why conservatives push for election integrity measures such as photo ID and proof of citizenship when registering to vote. Electronic voting machines should have paper backups, too.

Voters are entitled to know that, although they may not like the results, the process was accurate and buttressed with safeguards against fraud.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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