Updated Feb 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Iowa Democrats rush "quality checks" after "inconsistencies"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The conclusive results on the Iowa Democratic caucuses are coming in later than expected tonight, with the state party reporting the need to do "quality checks."

  • Des Moines County Democratic Chair Tom Courtney is blaming election technology for the delay and calling a new caucus reporting app "a mess," AP reports.
  • "The app is the issue and the hotline is smoked," volunteer Joe Galasso told NBC News.

What's next: The Iowa State Democratic Party said... "The integrity of the results is paramount. We have experienced a delay in the results due to quality checks and the fact that the Iowa Democratic Party is reporting out three data sets for the first time."

  • "What we know right now is that around 25% of precincts have reported, and early data indicates turnout is on pace for 2016."

In a subsequent statement by Iowa Democratic Party spokesperson Mandy McClure:

  • "We found 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.
  • "This is simply a reporting issue, the app did not go down and this is not a hack or intrusion. The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results."

Why it matters: There's a real chance that different campaigns walk away with different types of "wins."

  1. Most raw votes in the first round of voting
  2. Most raw votes after the second round of voting
  3. Most delegates overall

Between the lines: The current Iowa polling top four are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders at 22%, Pete Buttigieg at 18%, and Elizabeth Warren at 15%.

  • One potential surprise could be whether Amy Klobuchar (currently at 8%) can clear the 15% threshold in a number of precincts.

The big picture: 2020 is the first year that the caucuses will release the raw vote totals, allowing voters in other states to get a sense of how the middle tier candidates are doing.

  • In tonight's caucuses, supporters of candidates who fail to secure 15% after the first round will be able to swap sides.
  • This will give campaigns and voters alike a tangible example of how candidates in the top tier perform among second-choice voters.

On the ground: The "buzz going around" is that this might be the "craziest — it seems the busiest" caucus in a long time, Phil Chia of Des Moines told Axios' Alexi McCammond and Margaret Talev when they dropped by Lincoln High School, where Chia is the activities director, just after lunchtime.

  • Multiple precincts will be caucusing in various rooms at his school tonight — Chia counted off two gymnasiums, the library, three classrooms, the cafeteria, the band room and the choir room.
  • While caucus organizers were asked not to start setting up until late afternoon after the students had left for the day, Chia said he got several drop-bys starting around 9 am just to check things out. 
  • The Iowa Democratic Party was also heard live on CNN hanging up on a precinct chair after an hour on hold to report an issue with the reporting app.

The bottom line: Spot-on quote from Todd Dorman of The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette in a column titled, "Goodbye media. You'll miss the ranch dressing":

  • "Iowans don’t always pick winners, but the fear of picking a loser this time is palpable."

Go deeper: The Bernie Sanders surge shapes the Iowa caucuses

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