Iowa Caucus 2020: one step forward, a hundred steps back

In recent years, Iowa has become an important benchmark and a launch pad for presidential campaigns. Iowa is the state where candidates can drum up momentum before the first primary in New Hampshire and catch enough media attention to stick in the minds of the average voter. However, this year, The Iowan Democratic Party dropped the ball and caused one of the most significant political snafus in recent history. 

Caucuses are different from standard ballot voting and prove to be quite the spectacle. Caucus-goers must go to specific locations within their precincts. Once there, caucus-goers then divide themselves into different preference groups that correspond with their preferred candidate. If a candidate gets 15 percent of the total room count, then they are considered viable, and their supporters can no longer vote. Once the first count is completed, a process called realignment begins, when supporters of a viable candidate try to convince supporters of a non-viable candidate to join their group.

Traditionally after a few realignments, a final count is taken. Then delegates are given to each candidate depending on their number of supporters. The final count and the delegate allotment is reported to the Iowa Democratic Party Headquarters, where the results are then given to the media. Each preference group elects its county delegates; those delegates reconvene at a later date to discuss their platform and then vote on state delegates to go to the state convention. Then the state delegates will cast their vote for the national delegates who will vote for their candidate at the national convention. It’s so simple, it doesn’t cause headaches at all.

This year, the Democratic Party of Iowa decided to make a few changes to this year’s caucus. Due to the sheer number of Democratic candidates running, the party decided only to allow only one realignment phase. Satellite caucuses were created in Iowa at different times and in three different counties to allow people to cast their vote if they could not make it to the main caucuses.

This year, however, the process ultimately failed, resulting in the chairmen of the Democratic National Committee to call for a recanvas of the Iowa caucuses. So, what exactly happened?

In an unprecedented turn of events, the Des Moines Register did not release their poll on February 2. This may not seem like a big deal, but the Des Moines Register has published this poll for the last 76 years. The Des Moines Register poll was considered the gold standard of political polling and claimed that the survey accurately portrayed the opinions of the Iowan people. Not releasing this poll made the caucuses unpredictable and left undecided caucus-goers in the dark. The poll was withheld due to a concern that one of the candidates’ names was left off the survey.

The Democratic Party of Iowa contracted a company called Shadow INC to create an app that would assist precinct chairs in doing the math for allocating delegates to each candidate and send the results to the Iowa DNCHQ. Allegedly the Shadow app was rushed in less than two months and only cost $60,000. Shadow INC was acquired by a Democratic, non-profit organization called Acronym, which has made it clear that they want to increase the DNC’s online presence and counter President Trump’s influence on the internet. Acronym’s CEO is Tara McGowan, who used to work at a Democratic Super Pac and is married to a senior strategist for the Buttigieg campaign.

Throughout the night, caucus volunteers had trouble downloading or using the app to report the results. Volunteers attempted to call the Iowa Democratic Party HQ to report the results the old-fashioned way, but they were instead placed on hold for hours. The department of homeland security told Politico that they had not vetted or reviewed the app.

 The full results of the caucus were withheld until February 6, which caused many of the democratic candidates to declare victory as they prepared to move on to the race in New Hampshire.

 The final results with 100 percent of the precinct data shows that Bernie Sanders won the popular vote with 45,826 total votes. Pete Buttigieg is trailing behind him by 2,631 votes, and Elizabeth Warren sits in third, trailing by 11,055 votes. However, Buttigieg is barely leading in the number of delegates totaling at 26.2%, followed by Sanders at 26.1%, and Warren at 18.0%.