Top Republicans are calling for a review of the methods used in presidential caucuses after a series of vote-counting mishaps in three early states.
Maine on Tuesday became the latest state to fall victim to the caucus bug, with the Bangor Daily News noting that the state GOP declared Mitt Romney the winner of a close race without many localities’ votes being included in the totals.
It was just the latest problem in what has been a very rough year for the caucus format.
Earlier this year, Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa GOP caucuses by eight votes after results from one precinct were lost until the next morning. Then the party said more votes were missing and that the true winner of its caucuses would never be known. Finally, two days later, it declared Rick Santorum the winner.
And in Nevada, a smattering of problems with its caucuses has left the state GOP searching for answers.
All of this has some suggesting that caucuses may not be an effective option going forward. Mostly, though, Republicans think it’s time to revisit how caucuses are run.
“Caucuses are still a viable option, but the operators need to understand that the results are going to generate a lot of publicity and that they have significance beyond the state line,” said David Norcross, a former Republican National Committee general counsel. “They need to set the rules and have a representative of each candidate informed and on hand for the count.”
Caucuses are inherently less organized than primaries, in large part because they are run by state parties and don’t have experienced state elections officials in charge.
Because of this, methods may not be the same at every caucus site, and the paper trail isn’t as reliable.
At the same time, party rules have effectively increased the importance of caucuses by pushing them to the front of the process. The RNC allows only four states to hold their contests before March, but that rule doesn’t apply to caucuses.
The result: Minnesota, Colorado and Maine have held February caucuses without paying a penalty.
“The problems encountered in two or three caucuses does not call out for abolition of caucuses, but for better methods of implementing caucuses,” said Republican National Committeeman John Ryder of Tennessee. “And I say this as someone who favors primaries — at least for my own state.”