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Republicans Plot Assault On Iowa Caucuses On Military Voter Issue

Could this be the end of the hallowed, flawed system? Nicholson presses rule to end “the inexcusable practice of disenfranchising military voters in our party’s presidential delegate selection process.”

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

TAMPA — The Republican party is on the brink of dealing a major blow to Iowa’s traditional caucus system, with the process’ critics pointing to recent battles over military voting rights to make the case for ending traditional nominating contest.

Chris Brown, Chairman of the Young Republican Federation of Alabama and a member of the Republican Convention’s Rules Committee, is expected introduce a measure tomorrow requiring states to use “every means practicable” to ensure that military voters can cast ballots in any process used in the Republican presidential nominating process, according to a person involved in the effort. The measure will be seconded by influential Ohio GOP chair Bob Bennett, who has been a member of the RNC for more than two decades, the source said.

Caucuses — by definition in-person voting systems — would not satisfy the proposed rule, requiring dramatic changes to the process in Iowa and other caucus states, if not their outright abandonment.

“The Rule will simply guarantee the right of military voters and wounded warriors to vote in the process of selecting the delegates who will choose our party’s presidential nominee,” wrote former RNC Chairman and former VA Secretary Jim Nicholson in an email to members of the Rules Committee, which was obtained by BuzzFeed, asking that they end “the inexcusable practice of disenfranchising military voters in our party’s presidential delegate selection process.”

This year’s chaos in Iowa — a two week review following missing ballots and a convention delegation makeup that is radically different than the will of the voters after Ron Paul delegates took control of the party — drew particular criticism to the caucus process. Other difficulties in Nevada and Maine also put the system’s future in doubt. The state party’s current domination by Paul supporters may also reduce its traditional leverage.

Military voters’ groups like the Reserve Officers Association have also long complained that the caucus system excludes active-duty servicemembers, a complaint Iowa officials brushed off last year.

According to a person involved in drafting and lobbying for the rule change, many members of the rules committee — including the vice chair — have expressed support for the change.

“The ultimate decision how to handle this rule will be made by the Romney campaign,” the person said, noting Chairman John Sununu’s close ties to the GOP nominee’s campaign. “They will have to decide what to do with it, but they have an enormous amount to gain by making the GOP the party of military voting rights.”

The proposed change:

Proposed Change to Rule 15©7
Any process authorized or implemented by a state Republican Party for selecting delegates and alternate delegates or for binding the presidential preference of such delegates shall use every means practicable to guarantee the right of active duty military personnel, and individuals unable to attend meetings due to injuries suffered in military service the opportunity to exercise their right to vote in that process.

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