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Democratic National Committee asks Iowa, Nevada to scrap virtual voting plans for security reasons: ‘Especially after 2016’

2019-08-30

In this Feb. 20, 2016 file photo, people line up to participate in the Democratic caucus at the University of Nevada in Reno, Nev. The Democratic National Committee is recommending scrapping state plans to offer virtual, telephone-based caucuses in 2020 due to security concerns. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Democratic Party brass urged Nevada and Iowa delegates Friday to scrap plans that would allow constituents to vote in the 2020 caucuses over the phone, warning that the techie update could pose a security risk.

Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee’s chairman, announced the recommendation after party election security officers conducted a review of the virtual caucus plans floated by the Nevada and Iowa state parties.

“We concur with the advice of the DNC’s security experts that there is no tele-caucus system available that meets our standard of security and reliability given the scale needed for the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and the current cyber-crime climate,” Perez said in a statement.

A DNC source, speaking on condition of anonymity to address internal discussions, said the party made the recommendation out of concern that Russia may try to hack the caucuses or interfere in other ways if the virtual voting option is available.

“The integrity of our elections it the top priority of what we have to be doing, especially after 2016,” the source told the Daily News, referencing Russia’s sweeping attack on the last presidential election.

But Democratic 2020 candidate Julian Castro voiced concern that cancelling the virtual caucuses will disenfranchise absentee voters.

“The DNC needs to get its act together so that it doesn’t disenfranchise tens of thousands who would participate,” Castro said in a video posted to his Twitter account. “That means they either need to make sure that they figure out a secure virtual caucus process or alternatively allow another form of absentee voting in the caucus, either mail-in ballots or some sort of physical absentee voting.”

Despite Perez’s recommendation, it’s ultimately up to the party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee to decide whether virtual caucuses will be held in Iowa and Nevada.

However, opposition from Perez and election security officials will weigh heavily, as the committee considers the matter.

In his statement, Perez urged the Iowa and Nevada parties to work on alternative virtual voting plans that would comply with the party’s security standards.

But it’s unlikely either party would be able to roll out a plan, considering the tight window of time. Iowans are caucusing Feb. 3 and Nevadans follow on Feb. 22.

U.S. intelligence officials and members of Congress have warned Russians are still attempting to meddle in U.S. elections and likely will aggressively target the 2020 contest.

During his testimony before Congress earlier this year, former special counsel Robert Mueller stated, “They’re doing it as we sit here.”

Russia launched a multi-facilitated interference effort during the 2016 election cycle with the explicit intent of boosting President Trump’s campaign and disparaging Hillary Clinton.

While there’s no evidence suggesting the Kremlin altered votes, Mueller stated in his report that Russian hackers targeted state election offices as well as American manufacturers of voting machines.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, dropped a bombshell during an interview in April, saying he had been told by the FBI that Russian hackers were “in a position” to change voter roll data in the Sunshine State in 2016, though it remains unclear if they successfully did.