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Sioux City Journal

And the winner is ... SpongeBob SquarePants?

Concerned about computer hackers, Iowa GOP takes steps to protect caucus results

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - With two weeks remaining before Iowa kicks off the 2012 campaign with its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, the state Republican Party is taking steps to secure its electronic vote collection system after receiving a mysterious threat to its computers.

A video claiming to be from a collective of computer hackers has jolted party officials with a worst-case scenario ...

While confident in the safeguards protecting the vote count itself, and aware the video may be a hoax, members of the state Republican Party's central committee told The Associated Press they are taking the threat seriously ...

"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. We don't want that to be the story," said Wes Enos, a member of the central committee and the political director for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign in Iowa.


A former activist for Occupy Des Moines, Clarke Davidson, has acknowledged posting the video on YouTube. He said he did so after masked men left it outside his tent near the state Capitol on Nov. 3.


Unlike most presidential primaries, which are conducted by state governments, ... On Jan. 3, voters will gather ... 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, ... The ballots would provide a backup in the event of any later confusion about the results.

Drew Ivers, chairman of Texas Rep. Ron Paul's campaign in Iowa and a member of the state GOP central committee, said party officials and consultants will also monitor for any hacking threat using software and other methods, ...

"If a hacker gets in and messes it all up, we can reconstruct (the results)," he said. "It would take a little while. It might take a day or two, but we can do it."

Among the early voting states, the hacking concerns have most spooked officials in Iowa. In New Hampshire, whose primary is one week after the Iowa caucuses, officials rely on a mostly manual process ...

But Douglas Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa who has consulted for both political parties, said the Iowa Republican Party is right to be concerned about the security of their computer systems. The Internet, he said, is "becoming more and more like the Wild West."

"It's very clear the data consolidation and data gathering from the caucuses, which determines the headlines the next morning, who might withdraw or resign from the process, all of that is fragile," Jones said. "If I were one of these 'hacktivists' who had no scruples, I would be really strongly tempted to see if I could get into the computer and see if I could make 'SpongeBob SquarePants' win."