The Iowa Caucus Was Even More Disastrous Than Previously Thought

A week after the Iowa caucuses, the winner has yet to be determined. Observers and Democratic Party officials initially blamed technology, which made sense, as the app the Iowa Democratic Party used to count votes was seemingly held together with the software equivalent of duct tape and prayers. Developed in a rushed two months by Shadow, a company with links to the Clinton and Obama campaigns, the app was used despite concerns of multiple cybersecurity experts that it had not been rigorously tested and was susceptible to hacking.

There were indeed problems with the app, but in the week since the Iowa debacle, multiple sources reveal that the app — and what Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price called a coding issue — is only one piece of the chaotic puzzle.

According to The New York Times, the caucus “crumbled under the weight of technology flops, lapses in planning, failed oversight by party officials, poor training, and a breakdown in communication between paid party leaders and volunteers out in the field, who had devoted themselves for months to the nation’s first nominating contest.”

On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that the phone number for reporting the results of the Iowa caucuses was posted on the internet message board 4chan, with instructions to “clog the lines.” After initially declining to comment, the Iowa Demcratic Party confirmed to Bloomberg that it had “experienced an unusually high volume of inbound phone calls to its caucus hotline,” many of them from “supporters of President Trump who called to express their displeasure with the Democratic Party.”

Even without the 4chan calls, communication broke down frequently. According to the Times, “most precinct caucuses ran smoothly across the state. But when some precinct leaders tried to report the results, the app sometimes froze. Calls to the state party hotline sometimes languished on hold for five hours.”

There also were inconsistencies in reporting across the voting precincts:

In the Times review of the data, at least 10 percent of precincts appeared to have improperly allocated their delegates, based on reported vote totals. In some cases, precincts awarded more delegates than they had to give; in others, they awarded fewer. More than two dozen precincts appeared to give delegates to candidates who did not qualify as viable under the caucus rules.

Staffers were in an information blackout. Some, the Times reports, were
“[waiting] in a room with no windows, no food, no water and no information. They took turns trying to call state party officials in search of information.”

Price failed to assuage concerns, saying on a Monday night conference call that the delay was due to having to collect and report three different sets of data. Jeff Weaver, a Bernie Sanders adviser, was unconvinced. “You always had to calculate these numbers; all we’re asking is that you report them for the first time.”

The Iowa debacle has not been conducive to Democratic Party unity, either between campaigns or between state parties and the national party. On Sunday, The Washington Post described the situation as on “the brink of open war.” The Iowa situation brought up difficult memories of the 2016 campaign for Bernie Sanders supporters, who believe the Democratic National Committee may be prejudiced against them. “They can shout unity all they want,” Nina Turner, a national co-chair of the Sanders campaign told the Post, “but the actions show otherwise.”

Relations also are strained between Price and DNC Chair Tom Perez, who, according to the Post, are “privately deflecting blame onto each other.”

Read the full Times story here.

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