Tech Is Finally Disrupting the Archaic Iowa Caucuses

People wait to greet 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, during a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, on December 21, 2015. People wait to greet 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, during a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, on December 21, 2015. DANIEL ACKER/BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

AUTHOR: ISSIE LAPOWSKY. BUSINESS for WIRED 

FOR A PROCESS that plays such a major role in determining the future leader of the world’s most powerful country, the Iowa Caucuses can seem archaic, opaque, and hard to understand. But this year, thanks to mobile tech and social media, they’re about to become more open and transparent—an evolution that could also play an outsized role in influencing the outcome of the nation’s first presidential contest.

Back during the 2008 Iowa Caucus, Rachel Paine Caufield says she had never even heard about Twitter. The platform was not quite two years old and hadn’t yet broken into the mainstream. But that year, a friend came to town to observe the proceedings and told Caufield this new tool had the power to radically change the process.

At the time, Caufield, a professor of political science at Drake University in Des Moines, thought her friend was crazy. Today she believes her friend was prophetic.

‘We’re going to have a lot more information about that this time around.’

On caucus night, Iowans don’t just cast votes. Instead, the Iowa Caucus is a low-tech, no-frills event where neighbors gather in schools, community centers, and each other’s homes to voice their opinions on candidates seeking the party’s nomination. It’s the way it’s been done since Iowa gained its “first in the nation” status in 1972. Four years have passed since the last Republican caucus, and eight years have gone by since the Democrats have had to choose a nominee. That, of course, was before most Americans had a smartphone permanently affixed to their palms. This year, when Iowans gather to caucus on February 1st, all that will change.

“We all have smartphones, and we not only tweet regularly, but we have Instagram and YouTube and video cameras in our pockets,” she says. “This will be a caucus that’s documented in a way no previous caucus has been documented.”

To read the entire story visit: http://www.wired.com/2016/01/the-low-tech-high-stakes-iowa-caucus-is-getting-disrupted/

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