Well, that was an underwhelming caucus night on Monday. For all the build-up, with reporters on TV repeatedly saying that in the 9 o’clock hour on the east coast results should be expected any minute, to continued delays, then reports of reporting failures and “inconsistencies” in the reported data, the Iowa Democratic Caucus melted down into a fiasco for the party and a disaster for candidates counting on a victory heading into New Hampshire.
According to reports late on Monday night and into Tuesday morning, the Democratic Party of Iowa has claimed that the delay in results is merely a reporting issue and that the underlying paper trail is being audited now before any accurate results can be released:
The Iowa presidential caucuses were thrown into chaos late Monday after the state Democratic Party said it found “inconsistencies,” delaying results and causing widespread confusion across the state.
The Iowa Democratic Party said early Tuesday that it would release the results of the Iowa caucuses later Tuesday after “manually verifying all precinct results.”
Party chair Troy Price said the party is “validating every piece of data we have against our paper trail. That system is taking longer than expected, but it’s in place to ensure we are eventually able to report results with full confidence.”
The state Democratic party’s communications director, Mandy McClure, said on Monday night that there were “inconsistencies” in the reporting of three sets of results. “In addition to the tech systems being used to tabulate results, we are also using photos of results and a paper trail to validate that all results match and ensure that we have confidence and accuracy in the numbers we report,” McClure said.
The state party is putting a positive spin, calling it a “reporting issue,” but last night, the word of the evening was “chaos” as county-level party officials were stuck on the phone for hours, as a backup to the failed reporting smartphone app, only to get hung up on when trying to report results or just inquire about the delays.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the campaigns are furious being shut out of the auditing process and, at times, also being hung up on late last night when asking for a time frame on the outcome:
During the first call between officials from the campaigns and the state party, the party “hung up on campaigns” when pressed for a release time, an aide to one of the candidates said.
“They are matching the paper worksheets by hand,” an adviser to one of the top tier campaigns said. The party said only 35 percent of the results were in and none of it was yet verified. “They literally have no verified results right now so we won’t know anything until sometime Tuesday.”
“We have no sense when results might come in,” said Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to Biden. “We are, as other campaigns are, very concerned with what they might release: the alignment numbers are not adding up.”
“It’s a total meltdown,” she added.
Tempers also flared during a second call between Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price and the campaigns early Tuesday morning.
Biden chief counsel Dana Remus repeatedly insisted that the campaigns be allowed into the “auditing process to give us confidence so we can then be your advocates in restoring confidence.”
The best illustration of the Monday night meltdown comes in the form of this clip from CNN where anchor Wolf Blitzer is interviewing a precinct secretary while the secretary was on hold with the party reporting hotline, only to get hung up by the party hotline while still on the air talking to Blitzer:
Unreal. A precinct secretary was on hold on the hotline for an hour and they took him off hold as he was talking to CNN. He didn't respond fast enough and they hung up on him. pic.twitter.com/hPgKhDge7i
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) February 4, 2020
By around 11:15 pm eastern, some candidates simply decided to take matters into their own hands and address their assembled supporters and at least get some presence in front of the quick-fading east coast television audience, namely the audience in New Hampshire.
Amy Klobuchar was the first to the podium:
Followed shortly by Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden:
Mayor Pete Buttigieg decided to declare victory in his speech despite no real results being reported at all on Monday night:
Finally, Bernie Sanders also addressed his watch party of supporters amid the delayed results:
When will we get results?
Great question, nobody seems to know the answer. The Iowa Democratic Party has said they will release results at some point Tuesday after the paper trail can be audited and the “inconsistencies” can be ironed out of the data. As an outside observer, the entire process looks and sounds like a nightmare for a party still reeling from caucus issues four years ago between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders where a lack of transparency created many hard feelings. With razor-thin margins between the current candidates, screwing up the reporting and/or tabulating process with flawed or incomplete data could make the Iowa caucus results completely void or create momentum for changes in the future, like dumping the caucus process entirely.
In the scope of the 2020 Democratic primary campaigns are fighting over less than one percent of the total delegates in Iowa. On March 3, nearly 40% of the total delegates will be dolled out on Super Tuesday and Iowa may be nothing more than a footnote about reporting problems and inconsistencies.
More to come later today if and when the Iowa Democratic Caucus results are released.
I’d be remiss to let this story slip by. Apparently the new reporting app, touted as a new way for the caucus results to be tabulated and reported faster, was never part of the required training but precinct captains were required to use it:
“The app wasn’t included in the chair training that everyone was required to take,” said Zach Simonson, the Democratic Party chair in Wapello County.
“When you have an app that you’re sending out to 1,700 people and many of them might be newer to apps and that kind of stuff, it might have been worth doing a couple months’ worth of testing,” said Mr. Bagniewski, the Polk County chairman.
That is precisely the possible nightmare scenario that we flagged a few weeks back with the party’s decision to rely on a new smartphone reporting app rather than phoned-in results. The fact that no mock caucuses or at least training sessions were conducted with the app is almost a dereliction of what the Iowa Democratic Party should be doing to ensure a smooth and reliable caucus process.
In the midst of a busy caucus precinct location, the added stress of the night likely contributed to an already unfamiliar experience of using the smartphone app as part of the reporting process. The fact that no training took place ahead of time is inexplicable and indefensible.
New update from the Iowa Democratic Party. Now they’re saying a coding issue in the reporting app caused the data irregularities but that all the voting records are unaffected and need to be hand-verified:
NEW statement from @iowademocrats — "While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system." pic.twitter.com/kOXdcvggoe
— Maura Barrett (@MauraBarrettNBC) February 4, 2020
Again, still remarkable that this type of bug or coding error wasn’t caught beforehand. Did they test the reporting app at all before deploying it across Iowa to help select a presidential candidate?