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January 26th, 2012

Caucus Changes Have to Begin at the Top

The Des Moines Register has published an investigative article looking into where the “missing precincts” from caucus night are.  There is just one problem.  There are no missing precincts.  What’s missing is a piece of paper, a Form E from each of eight precincts, which is used as the official record of the vote.  Without the forms, there is no way to certify the votes that were reported on caucus night.

The article even states the results from those precincts, another indication that the only thing missing is some paper work.  What’s odd is that Register didn’t mention the fact that Rick Santorum’s lead in the certified vote would have grown had the unofficial results from the eight precincts been certified in its original, exclusive story on the results of the certified vote.  It’s also strange that the Register has never run a story declaring Santorum the winner, even though the Republican Party issued a statement saying so last Friday.

It is important to understand what happened in those eight precincts so that improvements to the caucus process can be made.  The conclusion from the Register’s article is that Form E should be printed in triplicate.  Four years ago, the forms were printed in triplicate.  That allowed for a copy of the results to be sent to the Republican Party of Iowa, one kept with the county GOP, and if I remember correctly, the third copy was for the county auditor.  However, since a political party runs the caucuses, E forms are not typically given to the county auditor.

The triplicate E Forms would help prevent the official results of each precinct from getting misplaced or lost in the mail, but it does nothing to ensure that the form actually gets filled out and properly signed on caucus night.  While a couple more precincts would likely have been able to be certified, a triplicate E Form would not have solved the problems in more than half of the eight precincts.

The problem that the Iowa GOP must focus on solving is how to ensure that that every precinct fills out all of the appropriate paper work.  Printing these forms in triplicate provides for back up copies, but does nothing to make sure that the form is filled out in the first place.

The lost or incompleted paperwork from the eight precincts is a problem, but the notion that votes are missing is just flat out wrong.  The idea of missing votes is also damaging to future caucuses.  As mentioned in the Register article, the votes that were phoned in on caucus night still exist.  What also exists is a list of everyone who attended the caucuses in those precincts, which has never been talked about.

Even thought the Republican Party of Iowa can’t certify those eight precincts, they could take the total number of votes that were phoned in on caucus night and see if that number matches the total number of people who signed in.  They could have also asked the people who attended the caucuses in those precincts fill out an affidavit as to who they voted for on caucus night.  That may seem like a lot of work, but it would be better than seeing the media talk about missing votes.

Regardless of all of the little problems that a close election exposed in the caucus process, the biggest problem was the inability and outright refusal of Matt Strawn, the Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa to stand behind the certification process and the thousands of volunteers that help make the caucuses possible.  Instead of standing behind the 1,766 precincts that were certified, Strawn stood behind the eight that were not.

Strawn’s unwillingness to stand behind the certified results is what created the cloud of suspicion over the caucus process.  Instead of clearly stating that Rick Santorum won the caucuses after the vote was certified, he basically argued that it was still a tie, and that we will never know what happened in those precincts.

It’s hard to understand what motivated Strawn to act in such a way a week ago.  However, one thing is clear.  He wasn’t motivated by the best interest of the caucuses, and he also seemed all too eager to throw the certification process, his staff, and thousands of Iowa GOP activists who are required to pull off the caucuses under the bus.  That’s why the biggest change that needs to be made is the guy at the top.  He created the mess, and he’s not the one to clean it up.


Photo by Dave Davidson –

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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