The recent Super Bowl marked the official end of the football season. ... The biggest sporting event of the year went off without any obvious hitches. There were no power outages, technical problems or audio glitches. If anyone attempted to breach the security system in any way, the public hasn't heard about it. Even the game itself was essentially devoid of controversy. ...
With the Lombardi Trophy headed back to Kansas City, the eyes of the nation — and indeed the world — turned to Iowa. Feb. 3 was Iowa's Super Bowl in American politics, the one day every four years when the Hawkeye State becomes the center of the political universe.
And Iowa fumbled. It choked. When the lights were at their brightest, Minnesota's southern neighbor wilted.
It's impossible to overstate the disaster that played out on national television (that day). Iowa didn't merely lose — it became a laughingstock, and we suspect that this will be the last time Iowa will be allowed to kickoff the race to a presidential nomination.
While it's easy (and sometimes tempting) to laugh at a neighbor's misfortune, (Iowa caucuses') events should serve as a cautionary tale for party leaders and election officials across the nation — especially in states that are likely to be battlegrounds in the upcoming election.
Minnesota is one such state. It's within the realm of possibility that the 2020 presidential election will hinge on Minnesota's 10 electoral votes.
So, regardless of one's political leanings, we can all agree that our election process needs to be tested, re-tested and tested again. Firewalls against hacking and foreign interference must be reinforced, with multiple backup systems in place as voters go to the polls in November.
The good news is that Minnesota already has a sort of test run underway, with people casting absentee ballots for the March 3 presidential primary.
We're pleased that Minnesota no longer uses the caucus system to reveal which candidates it wants on the presidential ballot. Caucuses have a certain quaint charm, but they are distinctly undemocratic and give unfair weight to the views of relatively few people. In 2016, when nearly 3 million Minnesotans voted in the presidential election, the Republican and Democratic caucuses were attended by one-tenth that number.
We predict that the primary on March 3 will attract much higher turnout.
More ballots, of course, means more counting, but being part of so-called “Super Tuesday” provides a certain level of protection for Minnesota. If anything goes wrong, it won't bring the world to a standstill. Thirteen other states hold primaries that day, and the Democratic candidates will likely be far more concerned about what's happening in delegate-rich states like California and Texas.
Still, it will be crucial for Minnesota to work out every glitch and prepare for every possible scenario between March 3 and Nov. 3. At a time when our nation is so deeply divided, we predict record voter turnout, as well as an unprecedented amount of scrutiny on the election process. Any irregularity in the registration and voting processes could trigger a protracted legal fight, with the entire nation watching.
To that end, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that while Iowa's Democratic Party erred greatly in relying on a largely unproven app, — especially while trying to provide previously untallied data — it did have a backup plan, and that plan worked. Caucus participants recorded their preferences on paper ballots, so there is a clear paper trail. While some candidates have publicly questioned the validity of Iowa's results, we trust the numbers. They're late, but there is no reason to doubt them.
Minnesota, and indeed every state, would be wise to study Iowa's misfortune and how it responded. Technology is great, but it is fallible. Every election official in Minnesota, from the Secretary of State down to election judges in Warroad and Houston, should hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst on Election Day.
This editorial is the opinion of the Rochester Post Bulletin's editorial board.