MASON CITY, Iowa - It was a plan designed to make it easier to participate in the Democratic caucuses in Iowa: the virtual caucus.
Set to begin February 3rd, it would allow some voters, particularly those who may work or who are disabled, to participate via phone rather than going to neighborhood meetings.
However, a decision came down Friday from the Democratic National Committee to not approve the virtual caucus due to security reasons, such as the possibility of hacking and abuse of results, effectively halting the plan for now.
Tracy Smith of Clear Lake has caucused for many years, and planned to participate in the virtual caucus.
"Iowa seems to be very important in the political discussion. I'd think you want as many people talking as possible."
She supported the state party's plan to implement the virtual caucus, namely due to factors like weather and work schedules, believing it would allow more inclusiveness.
"What about second shift workers? We've completely eliminated them because it hits right at 7 o'clock, and you have to be there."
While Iowa and Nevada created the virtual caucus to meet a DNC mandate to open up more access for participation, there were concerns about the potential for hacking, with some Presidential campaign representatives speaking with the party about those concerns. Cybersecurity has been a strong focal point of the DNC since hacking by Russian operatives was discovered during the 2016 election cycle.
JoAnn Hardy is the Central Committee Chair of the Cerro Gordo County Democrats.
"We got to have a balance between getting a lot of people to participate and security. We have to balance that out."
Both Smith and Hardy are hopeful that a solution could be worked out, even with five months left until the caucus.
"Whether it could go to a one event instead of 5-6 event, pre-voting, if they can make that more secure. Or if there is a way to do a mail-in, almost like an absentee ballot. I don't know if that's a possibility."
Smith believes the DNC's decision is the right move.
"We want voter integrity. That's more important than participation. If we have larger participation with less integrity, we have lost."
In a statement released Friday regarding the decision, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price says that they are looking at alternate options.
"We will explore what alternatives may exist to securely increase accessibility from previous years given the time allowed. We’re dedicated to expanding accessibility throughout the process so that no Iowan faces a barrier at their caucus. We are confident that this will be resolved in the coming weeks."