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DNC move to scrap virtual caucuses sparks new party tensions

A move Friday by the Democratic National Committee to recommend scrapping plans by Iowa and Nevada to allow virtual, telephone-based caucuses in 2020 due to security concerns is facing pushback from some states and presidential campaigns.

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro slammed the news, charging that the DNC’s move “is an affront to the principles of our democracy.”

Rival 2020 Democratic contender Tom Steyer stressed that “I am extremely disappointed in the DNC’s decision to reject plans to hold virtual caucuses, and I stand shoulder to shoulder with Iowans and Nevadans who want their votes to be counted in such an important election.”

And Troy Price, the Democratic party chairman in Iowa – the state that votes first in the presidential nominating calendar –  said in a statement “we are obviously disappointed by this outcome.”


Iowa’s Democratic Party announced earlier this summer that they would, for the first time, allow people to cast their caucus votes over the phone next February, in addition to showing up the traditional way at local caucus meetings. Iowa was joined by Nevada, which also holds a caucus and is the third state to vote in the primaries and caucuses.

The two states were attempting to follow a national party mandate to widen participation in the caucuses, especially for evening-shift workers and people with disabilities, whom critics of the caucuses have long said are blocked from the process.

At the time, DNC ChairmanTom Perez praised the two states for their efforts, and the national party’s powerful Rules and Bylaws Committee gave both Iowa and Nevada conditional – but not final – approval.

But things started unraveling for both states this month, with rising concerns by some national party officials that the technology used for virtual caucuses could be subject to hacking.

Democratic sources confirm to Fox News that serious security concerns were raised last week at a closed-door session of the Rules and Bylaws Committee during the DNC’s annual summer meeting.

On Friday, Perez and the two co-chairs of the Rules and Bylaws Committee announced they are recommending to the full committee “that virtual caucus systems not be used in the Iowa and Nevada 2020 caucus processes.”

They acted after a memo from the DNC’s technology and security teams emphasized that “there is no tele-caucus system available that is sufficiently secure and reliable.”

DNC leaders are particularly sensitive to security concerns after the party was hacked by Russian operatives during the 2016 election cycle.

If the Rules and Bylaws Committee votes to officially prevent Iowa and Nevada from going ahead with their virtual caucus plans, it would leave two key early voting states and the national party a short time to come up with alternative plans to expand the caucus electorate in the February contests, which are less than six months away.

Price, the Iowa Democratic Party chair, said that “while only five months remain before the caucuses, we will explore what alternatives may exist to securely increase accessibility from previous years given the time allowed.”

Castro, the former San Antonio, Texas mayor who later served as Housing and Urban Development secretary during President Barack Obama’s second term, admitted that “protecting the integrity of our elections is a critical concern.”


But he argued that “with only 157 days until the Iowa caucus, the DNC’s feet-dragging has done a serious disservice to Democratic voters and the principle of a fair, accurate, and unburdensome primary or caucus.”

Also weighing in was White House hopeful and best-selling spirtual author Marianne Williamson, who highlighted that “Iowa’s Virtual Caucuses are an important and innovative step to increase voter participation in Iowa. Accessibility to the polls or caucuses are paramount to a free and fair elections.”

The DNC’s already been heavily criticized in recent weeks by many of the lower-tier Democratic presidential candidates who failed to make the stage at next month’s third round of primary debates over its fundraising and polling thresholds to qualify for the showdown.

Apparently aware that it would take more incoming fire over this latest decision, the party forwarded to political reporters a statement Friday afternoon by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who supported the DNC’s move.

“One of the biggest lessons from 2016 is that election officials and parties must make cybersecurity a key consideration for every decision in our elections process,” Wyden wrote. “The DNC is doing the right thing by insisting on strong security measures for voters who caucus at home. Intelligence officials have made clear that foreign governments will exploit insecure technology to interfere in our democracy.”

Fox News’ Patrick Ward and the Associated Press contributed to this story


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