Iowa Democrats shelf plan for virtual caucus

DES MOINES, Iowa - With just five months until the Iowa caucuses, a big push to increase participation and accessibility has hit a major setback.

The Democratic National Committee is rejecting Iowa Democrats' plan for a virtual caucus, citing security concerns. The DNC's own experts have expressed concerns saying that they have "no confidence" that a virtual caucusing system would not be subject to malicious hacking.

"Here at the Iowa Democratic Party, it is my job and it is our job to ensure the protection and accessibility of Iowa Democrats to participate in this process without risk to their credibility. We do not want to create a system that could fail and therefore potentially disenfranchise anyone who uses that system," Troy Price, Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, said at a news conference in Des Moines Friday afternoon.

"The DNC does not believe the technology exists, and that the process can be secure, then we cant go forward with the plans we put forward," he added.

When Iowa Democrats introduced a proposal for a virtual caucus in February, they said they planned to make the 2020 caucus the best yet.

The virtual caucus would have increased access by giving options to those with disabilities, those who may be working late, are homebound or live in rural communities far from a caucus site.

It would've worked like a teleconference system where participants call into the virtual caucus by phone.

Cybersecurity expert John Johnson said the simple technology could be prone to hacking as simple as social engineering.

"I don’t think the technology was very sophisticated for that, much different than the electronic voting machines, where they do put in the effort to make them resistant to attacks. We know the phone system, anyone can pick up the phone and call you. And when it’s the Robo callers, you can’t even tell who they are or where they came. It’s very hard to trace back.

He said he was not surprised by the decision to shelf the virtual caucus.

"It’s a great idea to open up the caucus to people who might not get there in person, but I think that a lot more work needs to be done to put a more secure system in place." Johnson said.

Price insisted Iowa will remain a caucus state and will be the first state to hold one come February 3.

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