Correction: This story incorrectly said that caucus results were given to the GOP on a piece of paper. In fact, they were entered by a telephone system.
In response to a mistake made while reporting GOP straw poll votes on Super Tuesday, voting results from three precinct caucuses in Ford Hall were changed Thursday on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Web site.
Barry Hickethier, who oversaw the precincts in Ford Hall – as well as 20 others in the area – said the problem originated when he inaccurately submitted vote totals.
“I grabbed a sheet that looked like the totals,” Hickethier said. “It just wasn’t what I thought it was.”
In a rush to submit the results, Hickethier said he failed to report the correct information for the Ford Hall precincts.
After the discrepancy was brought to his attention by The Minnesota Daily, Hickethier reviewed the ballots and tally sheets and acknowledged the mistake. He then informed the Minnesota GOP of the problem, he said.
Minnesota GOP spokesman Mark Drake said the issue has since been resolved.
“It’s all been changed,” he said.
John Aiken, spokesman for the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, said the results published on the office’s Web site come directly from the parties.
He said the Secretary of State’s Web site is just the avenue for delivering the presidential preference results to the public and does not regulate the content.
“We are basically the place where the parties can come to load in that information,” Aiken said.
First-year MBA student Jason Einertson, who attended the caucus Tuesday at Ford Hall, said the disorganization of the event seemed to be the result of a lack of preparation.
While bearing in mind the transitory nature of college voters, many of whom are first time caucus-goers and unfamiliar with the system, Einertson said it’s especially important to have an experienced caucus convener.
“In most areas it works fine,” he said. “But that area just doesn’t work as well because there’s so many students who are there one year and not the next.”
Einertson said he was not aware the convener was required to divide the room into three separate precincts, and confusion resulted when the convener didn’t do so.
Later, when Hickethier reported the corrected results, he was unable to break them down by precinct.
Drake said the caucus process is coordinated by volunteers on many levels, all of whom are expected to relay accurate results.
“You’ve got to understand, we have 30 people accepting phone calls from over 700 people, so they enter the data that they are given,” Drake said. “There is not a lot of analysis going on Ö. They are at the mercy of the volunteers.”
Overhaul the system?
In light of concerns from GOP and DFL voters following the chaos that ensued at some Minnesota precinct caucus locations Tuesday, state Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, and Sen. Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park, began discussion Wednesday regarding legislation that would shift the presidential preference voting to a primary system.
Rest and Scheid were both out of the country and unavailable for comment Thursday.
Some see the move to change the system altogether as impulsive, however.
University political science professor Steven Rosenstone said the informality of a caucus can potentially lead to problems – like those experienced in Ford Hall.
“It’s opening the door to mistakes,” he said.
Still, he said a caucus has its benefits.
“It seems everybody has jumped very, very quickly to ‘We should have a primary,’ ” he said.
While caucuses have been run like “Mom and Pop operations,” Rosenstone said there are definite benefits to having a gathering where community members meet face to face.
“I think one has to be thoughtful about the trade-off,” he said.