By Michael Finnegan
Los Angeles Times
The chairman of the Democratic National Committee called Thursday for a full recount in the party’s botched Iowa caucuses as new questions emerged about the integrity of the vote tally in the first contest of the 2020 presidential race.
“Enough is enough,” party Chairman Tom Perez said on Twitter. “In light of the problems that have emerged in the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.”
The statement came as the state party was nearing the end of a chaotic vote count that started Monday night. Software breakdowns, clogged phone lines and mistakes in the tabulation have turned the Iowa contest into a major embarrassment for the Democratic Party as it seeks to rally around a challenger to run against President Donald Trump in November.
With 97% of the precincts reporting their state delegate count, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., was just a whisker ahead of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 26.2% to 26.1%, followed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 18.2%, former Vice President Joe Biden, 15.8%, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, 12.2%.
Yet Sanders declared victory at a campaign stop Thursday in New Hampshire, noting that he’d actually won the most votes in both rounds of voting in the Iowa caucuses and will ultimately wind up with the same number of delegates to the Democratic National Convention that Buttigieg will get. He called the tabulation “a big screw-up.”
“Some 6,000 more Iowans came out on caucus night to support our candidacy than the candidacy of anyone else,” he said. “And when 6,000 more people come out for you in an election than your nearest opponent, we here in northern New England call that a victory.”
The New York Times reported Thursday that results released by the state party were riddled with inconsistencies, casting doubt on whether a precise final result will ever be possible. Some vote tallies did not add up, some precincts allotted the wrong number of delegates to certain candidates, and the state party’s reported results did not all match those reported by the precincts, the report said.
Iowa Democratic Chairman Troy Price released a statement Thursday that did not address the call from Perez for a recount. Instead, he said the party is prepared to audit the paper records it collected from precinct chairs in Iowa’s 99 counties if any of the presidential campaigns request a recount, as outlined in its delegate selection plan. It was not immediately clear whether any campaign would request a recount.
Price reiterated that “the reporting circumstances on Monday night were unacceptable,” saying the party “identified inconsistencies in the data and used our redundant paper records to promptly correct those errors. This is an ongoing process in close coordination with precinct chairs, and we are working diligently to report the final 54 precincts to get as close to final reporting as possible.”
The state party “is nearing completion in collecting redundant materials from all 1,756 precincts, including hand-collecting materials from all 99 counties which are securely stored in Des Moines,” he said.
Regardless of whether one takes place, the party’s failure to report reliable results after three days has heightened calls for Democrats to drop the Iowa caucuses as the opening contest in their presidential nomination process. Iowa’s main function in the past has been to produce a windfall of media coverage and campaign donations for those who do well and to drive candidates who do poorly to abandon the campaign.
But Buttigieg has been unable to fully capitalize on what might have been an unexpected victory, and no candidate has quit the race.
“There are no words for how disastrous it was, and is,” said Joe Trippi, a strategist who ran Democrat Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign for president. “Nothing close to that, ever. It’s an incredible snafu with big implications.”
Still, Iowa Democrats are fighting to maintain their outsize role in the presidential race in spite of long-standing complaints that a predominantly white, rural state is a poor representative of an increasingly diverse and urban-centered party.
“It didn’t work great this time, but let’s learn from it and let’s go on,” said Jean Hessburg, a former Iowa state party executive director. “I’m not one to throw the baby out with the bath water.
“The caucuses have been and will always be a great example of democracy at its finest _ people talking about issues, people talking to each other, people actually participating in the voting process,” she said.
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