Iowa Caucus Night: What Happened?

As live coverage continued, the RHS Democrats eagerly awaited the results of Monday, February 3rd’s Iowa Caucuses, which kicked off the Democratic Primary season. The RHS Dems’ watch party brought together a group of more than 20 students to see which candidate would win the state and gain instant momentum in the race. Junior Patrick DeMeulder commented on the party, stating that “it was a great experience being with other people interested in the election and the primary.” 

But surprisingly, the 2020 Iowa Caucuses were marred with misinformation, confusion, technological failure, and disorganization, preventing concrete, official results from getting released. Even currently, sources like the Associated Press are unable to declare an official winner, with former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders both bringing in 563 delegate votes. Senator Sanders won the popular vote with 45,842 votes.

The chaos in Iowa became clear to the entire country as the night continued and result reporting was stagnant and unreliable. In school gyms, cafeterias, stadiums, town halls, and other public caucus locations, caucus-goers were unable to easily submit results to the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) due to a Byzantine app (developed by Shadow Inc.) that the IDP had newly rolled out for this year. Preliminary training on the app was rudimentary and uninformative for those responsible for reporting the results; on caucus night, they had no idea of how to use the technology. In addition, the app’s infrastructure continued to stutter throughout the night, preventing any results from being reported in the first place. When the app failed, people began to call in their results (the normal procedure up until this year) and email photos of their paper vote tallying forms to the IDP, creating a myriad of sources with conflicting data that the IDP had to vet. Reported results, calculated and awarded delegates, and results recorded in the IDP’s database all had major inconsistencies.

The quality of the reports became less and less reliable as the night continued due to this confusion, over-saturation, and multi-source reporting. The IDP refrained from reporting any official results until later in the night, but even then, only a small percentage of precincts were confirmed. On Tuesday, February 4, the IDP promised to release results sometime in the morning, but as the day continued with still no news, doubts in the integrity of the caucus system, the Democratic Party, and Iowa’s status as “first in the nation” deepened. Troy Price, the chair of the IDP, held a press conference at 4 PM on Tuesday apologizing for the absolute failure of the caucuses and reporting results from 62% of precincts. These numbers had Buttigieg with a slight lead over Sanders. As the week continued, more results slowly trickled out, and the legitimacy of the Democratic Party’s caucus system was scrutinized even further.

The fallout of the caucuses has been immense. Any political momentum allotted to the winner of the caucuses has been entirely stripped away, especially with both Buttigieg and Sanders declaring victory in the state. Additionally, the IDP is crumbling under scrutiny and outside pressure, and on Wednesday, February 12, Troy Price announced his resignation as chair of the IDP due to the embarrassment resulting from the chaos and ill-preparedness that demolished caucus night.

The failure of the caucuses led to anti-Democratic rhetoric from President Trump and other members of the G.O.P., using the tumultuous night as the prime example of the perceived incompetence of the Democratic Party and the DNC’s nomination process.

Moving on from Iowa, the New Hampshire Primary on Tuesday, February 11, went smoothly with Sanders as the official victor. Even though the RHS Democrats could not witness and celebrate a victor from Iowa, the nomination process continues, and November 2020 is rapidly nearing on the horizon.

Logan Richman
social media & digital content manager

Graphic: Sofia Lee

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