Politics

Is Electronic Voting Coming to the GOP Convention?

RNC agrees not to change other convention rules for now

An electronic voting device from the House floor. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Recognizing the possibility of a contested convention in Cleveland this summer, Republicans are considering an electronic system to capture votes on what could be a contentious set of procedural motions leading up to nominating a presidential candidate.  

The Republican National Committee agreed Thursday not to change the rules of the convention at this point, but is exploring changes to the way that delegate votes are recorded.  The idea of electronic voting is gaining steam now because in a disputed floor fight, voice votes may not cut it.  

"With advancements in technology, we are taking steps to see if electronic voting can be successfully implemented for procedural votes at the convention," a spokeswoman, Kirsten Kukowski, said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call on Thursday. "If we can answer several questions ranging from the technology itself to security and be sure application will be successful, we will consider using electronic voting for procedural votes."  

On Wednesday, Time reported that Pixl, a Texas-based firm, was being retained for development of the potential electronic system, which seems sure to be more modern than the system of cards used on the House floor, and definitely more advanced than the manual calling of the roll employed by the Senate.  

While the GOP convention's rules committee could theoretically allow for electronic voting even for the actual nomination, it sounds unlikely the technology would be ready in time for such a possibility.  

The convention organizing body confirmed Wednesday that work had been going on for several months, with those involved well-aware that security could be a challenge. They'll need to make sure that voting machines cannot be manipulated or hacked into by outside groups. There will also need to be outreach to the campaigns for anything beyond preliminary talks.  

While the rules have allowed for electronic voting in the past, it has not been necessary since the conventions have essentially been coronations, and the rules and procedures themselves have not been contested. And of course, technology has substantially advanced since 1996.  

The discussions come as the national committee is meeting in Florida, where the standing committee on rules heeded the advice of Chairman Reince Priebus and put off until another day recommending changes to the way the convention could operate, including a proposal that would have turned the convention floor away from basing its operations on the rules of the House of Representatives.  

The standing committee on rules gaveled out after just under an hour of debate.  

"The Chairman has been and will continue to make the case to RNC members that the rules of the convention should be decided by the delegates elected by Republican grassroots voters. When the RNC meets this week, he will urge that the RNC not make recommendations that would change the convention," spokeswoman Lindsay Walters had told Roll Call ahead of Thursday's meeting.  

Contact Lesniewski at nielslesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @nielslesniewski. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.