For the past two years, Texas Rep. Ron Paul has won the much-hyped straw poll at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. His victories have been met with roars from the Paul backers who typically stack the conference's final day and groans from his detractors.
But this year, CPAC has revamped its straw poll system in the hopes that more attendees will vote over the course of the event’s three days, lessening the impact of Paul’s supporters.
Attendees can now cast a straw poll vote electronically. There’s a dedicated voting room at the conference (it looks like a voting precinct) with kiosks where attendees can vote. The other option: they can use their smartphones or iPads to cast straw poll ballots.
The hope among CPAC organizers is that the new system not only makes it easier for attendees to vote, but that it breaks the stranglehold Paul’s fervent supporters have had on the straw poll. CPAC Director Christopher Malagisi laid out the logic behind the new system in a recent interview with C&E:
“This just professionalizes the process and we think it allows more people to participate," Malagisi said. "Sometimes the line to vote in the straw poll is unbelievably long. We can also get results a lot faster, which means people will have more time to vote. Last year, we stopped voting around late Friday afternoon and a lot of people were disappointed because they couldn’t get there until Saturday. Now, we can do this through most of the day Saturday and the results take only about half an hour to tabulate.”
Voting at this year's conference, which kicked off Thursday morning, will extend through Saturday afternoon. Results are set to be announced at 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, right before former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin takes the stage.