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DNC chair calls for ‘recanvass’ of Iowa results after delays

Feb 7, 2020, 5:30 AM
iowa...
FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2019 file photo, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, speaks before a Democratic presidential primary debate in Atlanta. Perez is calling for a “recanvass” of the results of Monday's Iowa caucus. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Thursday called for a “recanvass” of the results of the Iowa caucuses, saying it was needed to “assure public confidence” after three days of technical issues and delays.

”Enough is enough,” party leader Tom Perez wrote on Twitter.

Following the Iowa Democratic Party’s release of new results late Thursday night, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by two state delegate equivalents out of 2,152 counted. That is a margin of 0.09 percentage points. Both candidates have declared themselves victorious.

However, there is evidence the party has not accurately tabulated some of its results, including those released late Thursday that the party reported as complete.

The Associated Press is unable to declare a winner.

The state party apologized for technical glitches with an app that slowed down reporting of results from Monday’s caucuses and has spent the week trying to verify results. However, it was unclear if the party planned to follow the directive of the national leader to recanvass those results, a process that would likely require state officials to review caucus math worksheets completed at more than 1,600 caucus sites to ensure the calculations were done correctly and matched the reported results.

Iowa chairman Troy Price suggested in a statement Thursday that he would only pursue a recanvass if one was requested by a campaign.

The caucus crisis was an embarrassing twist after months of promoting Iowa as a chance for Democrats to find some clarity in a jumbled 2020 field. Instead, after a buildup that featured seven rounds of debates, nearly $1 billion spent nationwide and a year of political jockeying, caucus day ended with no winner and no official results.

Campaigning in New Hampshire, Sanders called the Iowa Democratic Party’s management of the caucuses a “screw-up” that has been “extremely unfair” to the candidates and their supporters.

“We’ve got enough of Iowa,” he said later Thursday at a CNN town hall. “I think we should move onto New Hampshire.”

Iowa marked the first contest in a primary season that will span all 50 states and several U.S. territories, ending at the party’s national convention in July.

As first reported by The New York Times, numerous precincts reported results that contained errors or were inconsistent with party rules. For example, the AP confirmed that dozens of precincts reported more final alignment votes than first alignment votes, which is not possible under party rules. In other precincts, viable candidates lost votes from the first alignment tally to the final, which is also inconsistent with party rules.

Some precincts made apparent errors in awarding state delegate equivalents to candidates. A handful of precincts awarded more state delegate equivalents than they had available. A few others didn’t award all of theirs.

The trouble began with an app that the Iowa Democratic Party used to tabulate the results of the contest. The app was rolled out shortly before caucusing began and did not go through rigorous testing.

The problems were compounded when phone lines for reporting the outcomes became jammed, with many callers placed on hold for hours in order to report outcomes. Party officials said the backlog was exacerbated by calls from people around the country who accessed the number and appeared intent on disrupting the process.

“There was a moment in the night where, it became clear, ‘Oh, the phone number just became available to the entire country,’” said Iowa state Auditor Rob Sand, who was answering calls for the party. “It was a pretty big problem.”

President Donald Trump relished in the Democratic turmoil.

“The Democrats, they can’t count some simple votes and yet they want to take over your health care system,” Trump said at a White House event Thursday celebrating his impeachment trial acquittal. “Think of that — no, think of that.”

The chaos surrounding the reporting breakdown seems sure to blunt the impact of Iowa’s election, which typically rewards winners with a surge of momentum heading into subsequent primary contests. But without a winner called, Democrats have quickly turned their focus to New Hampshire, which holds the next voting contest on Tuesday.

Buttigieg and Sanders will emerge from Iowa’s caucuses with the most delegates to the party’s national convention, regardless of which one eventually wins the contest. They have each won at least 11 national delegates, with a handful of delegates still to be awarded, according to the AP delegate count. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has won at least five delegates, while former Vice President Joe Biden has won at least two and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has at least one.

Iowa will award 41 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention this summer. There are 11 delegates still to be awarded as the state party sorts out the final results of the caucuses.

Candidates must win a majority of pledged delegates to the party’s national convention to win the Democratic nomination for president on the first ballot. This year, that’s 1,191 pledged delegates.

The two Iowa leaders, Buttigieg and Sanders, are separated by 40 years in age and conflicting ideology.

Sanders, a 78-year-old self-described democratic socialist, has been a progressive powerhouse for decades. Buttigieg, a 38-year-old former municipal official, represents the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party. Buttigieg is also the first openly gay candidate to earn presidential primary delegates.

Sanders narrowly lost the Iowa caucuses in 2016 to Hillary Clinton and pushed the party to make changes to the process this year, including releasing three different sets of results: a tally of candidate support at the start of the caucuses, their levels of support after those backing candidates with less than 15% got to make a second choice and the number of state delegate equivalents each candidate receives. The AP will determine a winner based on state delegates.

Given the tight race, former DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile said the party needs to “get this right” so the eventual nominee isn’t saddled with questions of legitimacy.

“It’s a combination of embarrassment and not being prepared for the various mishaps that can take place when you try to do something new and different,” she said.

Party activist John Deeth, who organized the caucuses in Iowa’s most Democratic county, Johnson, said he welcomed a recanvass and would help as needed.

“It makes sense to look everything over again and get it right,” he said.

Deeth said that he believed the review would uncover some data entry errors as well as some math and rounding errors in how delegates at each precinct were awarded. Volunteers running the precincts did their best, he said, but likely made some minor mistakes.

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Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writers Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa, Will Weissert in Manchester, N.H., Bill Barrow in Atlanta, and Stephen Ohlemacher and Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show that Iowa’s state auditor is named Rob Sand, not Rob Sands.

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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DNC chair calls for ‘recanvass’ of Iowa results after delays