IOWA CITY, Iowa – Taking seriously an apparent threat from a notorious collective of computer hackers, the Iowa Republican Party is boosting the security of the electronic systems it will use in two weeks to count the first votes of the 2012 presidential campaign.
Investigators don’t know if the threat is authentic, but it has nonetheless led the state party to confront a worst-case scenario. Their fear: an Iowa caucus marred by hackers who corrupt the database used to gather votes and crash the website used to inform the public about results that can shape the campaign for the White House.
“With the eyes of the media on the state, the last thing we want to do is have a situation where there is trouble with the reporting system,” said Wes Enos, a member of the Iowa GOP’s central committee and the political director for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign in the state. “We don’t want that to be the story.”
Confident in the existing safeguards protecting the vote count itself, Enos and other members of the party central committee told the Associated Press they recently authorized additional security measures aimed at ensuring hackers are unable to delay the release of caucus results.
Unlike most presidential primaries, which are conducted by state governments, Iowa’s caucuses are run by the political parties. On Jan. 3, voters will gather in roughly 1,800 precincts in Iowa’s 99 counties to declare their preference for a candidate. Those results are then reported to the state party, where they are tabulated electronically and reported to the public on a website.
The GOP is also encouraging the party activists who run the precinct votes to use paper ballots instead of a show of hands, which has been the practice in some areas. The ballots would provide a backup in the event of any later confusion about the results.