DES MOINES - A committee appointed by the Iowa Republican Party to review the state's caucus procedures made several recommendations Monday to avoid mistakes that caused the party embarrassment this year when it named the wrong winner in the race for president.
The recommendations include not declaring a winner if the margin between the top two presidential candidates is less than 1 percent. The Iowa GOP mistakenly named Mitt Romney the winner by eight votes on the evening of the Jan. 3 caucuses. Two weeks later, the party certified Rick Santorum as the winner by 34 votes.
That recommendation would be one of five additions made to the party's bylaws. At a meeting in Sioux City, the Caucus Review Committee also made five other suggestions it said could improve caucus procedures, but those items would not be added to the bylaws.
All of the recommendations must be approved by the central committee, said Bill Schickel, chairman of the committee and co-chairman of the state party.
Items added to the bylaws become party policy that must be followed to ensure the integrity of the caucuses, Schickel said. The four other recommended changes to the bylaws include:
-Making results available to all media and interested parties at one time by the chairman or designee.
-Completing final certification within 72 hours so results are announced before the New Hampshire primary. The candidate with the most certified votes will be declared the winner regardless of margin.
-Distributing training materials to county chairs and making them available online 365 days before the Iowa caucuses. Final training materials will be distributed and made available online at least 60 days before the caucuses. Registered voter lists will be made available 30 days before the caucuses.
-Conducting a training test-run of the presidential preference poll in non-presidential election year caucuses.
The committee also asked the party to adopt five recommendations, including investigating the use of mobile technology to assist in same-day certification of results. The committee believes that mobile technology will make it possible to report electronically from all caucus sites in 2016, making same-day certification possible.
The other four recommendations include:
-Distributing standardized paper ballots to caucus-goers at registration with no replacing of lost ballots. Completed ballots should be placed by individual caucus-goers in a ballot box. Ballots should be counted in the main caucus room. A representative from each of the participating presidential campaigns should be invited to observe at the Republican Party of Iowa vote tabulation center.
-Outlining in the prepared caucus agenda specific items for counting, reporting and confirming the vote.
-Using technology to ensure consistent caucus training. In addition to the written manual, it is suggested that training materials be available online and in electronic format available to download.
-Holding more training sessions at more locations across the state or via a webinar or teleconference.
Committee member David Fischer, whose two-year term on the state Republican Central Committee ended earlier this month, cast the only vote against the recommendations, saying he wanted an overhauled system in which results are verified the night of the caucuses. Placing in the bylaws a requirement that the certification occur within 72 hours instead of the current two weeks only compresses an already flawed system, he said.
He said he agreed with recommendations overall but wanted to voice his disagreement on this one point.
The 17-member caucus committee held three public meetings, surveyed more than 600 Iowa Republicans, and consulted with experts, Schickel said.
As the first presidential contest in the nation, the Iowa caucuses are closely watched. The Republican Party was heavily criticized for errors this year in a close race with a record turnout of 122,000 caucus-goers.
"I think these recommendations fulfill our charge of making the Iowa caucuses the most open, honest, and transparent in the country," Schickel said. "We learned from this that any error no matter how small is critical and that training is very important."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.