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How Iowa's caucus differs from Michigan's primary

Posted at 6:42 PM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 18:42:15-05

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Results for the Iowa caucus are starting to come in after a more than 18-hour delay. Here in Michigan, FOX 17 caught up with Ottawa County clerk Justin Roebuck on the topic.

He said, "When you see what's happening right now in Iowa the reality is the delay in the results has given people a lot of room to question the process. Can we trust the process? Is this accurate?"

Roebuck says the results delay can breed misinformation. The Iowa Democratic Party, which is in charge of tallying the votes, partially blames the delay on an app coding failure.

An election clerk's main priorities, he says, are security and accuracy of the voting process. Roebuck adds that timeliness comes into play when factoring in voter confidence.

"I think the important thing too to understand is Iowa is very different than the Michigan's primary process," he said.

One key difference is Iowa uses a caucus to discuss candidates and gather votes. The caucuses are run by the political parties. In Michigan, we vote by individual ballot which streamlines the process and gives elected clerks the power. However, this election, Roebuck says Michigan clerks do have a new challenge with changes to absentee voting.

"The reason for the delay could be very different in Michigan than in Iowa. Here in Michigan, after the passage of Proposal 3 in 2018, we had a lot of changes to our election law. We changed the process for how absentee ballots are issued with 'no reason absentee,'" he explained.

"For example, anybody can apply for an absentee ballot and get one and that's great. That's great news for our voters, but it's also really incumbent on us as election officials to make sure that we're still processing those ballots in a timely fashion," Roebuck said.

Clerks are now gearing up for Michigan's primary which is March 10th. For questions and answers on Michigan's primary, click here .