Technical Malfunction in Iowa Caucuses causes result delays
On February 3rd millions of Americans awoke to electoral confusion. Due to inconsistencies in the vote counts in multiple precincts in Iowa the results of the Democratic primary race have been delayed. What appeared to be the cause of the delay was the mobile app used by the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP). The app was developed by the political tech firm Shadow to be used by the IDP to add up and count the votes in Iowa’s precincts. On Tuesday, the IDP Chairman, Troy Price, stated that the errors were caused by a “coding issue” within the app, and claimed that the information collected was “sound” but incomplete. Because of the failure of the mobile app, the IDP was forced to resort to following the paper trails at individual precincts and tally votes manually.
Candidates addressed their supporters and the public Monday night regarding the delay. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg seemingly declared victory in a speech to his supporters. CNN reported that during his speech Buttigieg stated, “So we don’t know all the results, but we know by the time, it’s all said and done, Iowa you have shocked the nation. Because by all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.” The Buttigieg campaign claims to be basing their calculations on numbers they collected themselves via polling and other methods. Other campaigns also released statements and had their candidates address their supporters. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who was the first candidate to speak publicly about the caucuses, stated, “We know there are delays, but we know one thing: we are punching above our weight,” insinuating her numbers are close to the top contenders. Vice President Biden was more cautious in his remarks simply saying, “From our indications, it’s going to be close, we are going to walk out of here with our share of delegates. We don’t know exactly what it is yet, but we feel good about where we are.” Senator Sanders and Senator Warren likewise made similar remarks.
The speeches made by the candidates did little to stifle the confusion around the caucuses. With each campaign claiming different results, Iowa voters and out of state onlookers were left frustrated. The Republican caucuses, on the contrary, were completed without any notable discrepancies. With all the precincts reporting, President Donald Trump won with a landslide 97.1% of the votes receiving 39 delegates. The only other candidate to receive delegates was Governor Bill Weld who won 1.3% of the votes and earned 1 delegate.
When the results did come in late Friday night, it was Buttigieg that emerged victorious, winning 26.2% of the vote and 13 delegates. Narrowly behind him was Sanders with 26.1% of the vote and 12 delegates. Warren earned 18% of the votes and 8 delegates, while Biden collected 15.8% of the votes and 6 delegates. The last candidate to receive any delegates was Klobuchar who received 12.3% of the votes and 1 delegate. The caucuses conduct two rounds of preference expression or alignments to determine who receives delegates.
However, these results have been called into question as Sanders declared victory on Thursday, despite only 97% of the precincts reporting. According to Business Insider, Sanders was leading Buttigieg in the popular vote by “5,954 votes in the first alignment,” which was lowered to “2,518 votes in the second alignment.” Though behind Buttigieg in delegates, Sanders argued that he was “the rightful winner of Iowa by virtue of leading Buttigieg in number of votes.”
The two declarations of victory have confused voters that are not as familiar with the Caucus system. Though Sanders narrowly won the popular vote, that does not mean he won the precincts to earn the delegates. With the failure of the mobile app and chaotic tallying of votes, it is also possible that Sanders did win the delegates but that there were errors in the counting process. Due to the closeness of the results, the Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez tweeted on Thursday “Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.” A recanvass is a sort of recount of the physical worksheets at each caucus site to ensure accuracy. The IDP released a statement that it would only conduct as recanvass if asked by a candidate. As of this publication, no candidate has requested a recanvass.
Besides the importance of securing an early victory, the Iowa Caucuses give the winning candidate momentum or type of jumpstart that they can use in other states. With the New Hampshire debate already completed and only one day until voting begins, all the momentum that could have been garnered from the Iowa Caucuses is virtually lost. Regardless of the confusion at the front of the race with Sanders and Buttigieg, the caucuses did show which candidates will have to work more to win the nomination. Biden, who many saw as a strong contender, did not have a good showing by receiving 6 delegates. Likewise, Klobuchar, who has trailed behind the entirety of the race, only received 1 delegate. Even with the errors and inconsistencies, it is unlikely either candidate will come out of the caucuses without making major changes to their campaign strategy.
Sources: CNN, NBC, NPR, Business Insider