We may never know if Hillary really won the Iowa caucus

Just how much of a mess was the Democrat caucus in Iowa Monday night? We knew there were questions about the results before the dust had even settled on Tuesday morning, but the more time the local press has had to do interviews and dig into the details, the more this is looking like a total dumpster fire. The Des Moines Register has been tracking down some of the more problematic precincts to see what was going on and it’s increasingly looking like Hillary Clinton will remain the announced victor no matter how many questions the Sanders campaign raises, but it’s going to have a big old asterisk next to it in the record books.


It’s Iowa’s nightmare scenario revisited: An extraordinarily close count in the Iowa caucuses — and reports of chaos in precincts, website glitches and coin flips to decide county delegates — are raising questions about accuracy of the count and winner.

This time it’s the Democrats, not the Republicans.

Even as Hillary Clinton trumpeted her Iowa win in New Hampshire on Tuesday, aides for Bernie Sanders said the eyelash-thin margin raised questions and called for a review. The chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party rejected that notion, saying the results are final.

First of all, there weren’t just six coin flips to settle some of the precincts… there were a bunch of them. We’re selecting the nominee for one of the major parties to be the next leader of the free world. We’re flipping coins now? But even leaving that aside, the methods they employ to determine the winners at each polling station are a hot mess, as has long been known.

We should pause at this point to note that this isn’t an official “election” which is overseen by by the Secretary of State or any government board, but a private party exclusive to the Democrats. Because of that, it’s technically nobody’s business except the Democrats of Iowa as to how they conduct their caucus. It’s the equivalent of how the members at the Moose Lodge pick their next Grand Poobah. It’s really up to the members. But why aren’t more of them complaining? The Democrats don’t even pick their winner based on a head count like in the Republicans do. They generate “state delegate equivalents” based on some obscure math formula. There’s also the matter of having to show up to vote and stand in a very public spotlight to reflect your choice, where all of your friends and relatives can see you. Maybe even your boss. If she’s a Clinton supporter and sees you backing Sanders, standing in the way of the nomination of the first female president, well… let’s see how that goes at review time next year.


But even if the system were rational and sane, in too many places it wasn’t organized enough to have any faith in the numbers.

Democratic voters reported long lines, too few volunteers, a lack of leadership and confusing signage. In some cases, people waited for an hour in one line, only to learn their precinct was in a different area of the same building. The proceedings were to begin at 7 p.m. but started late in many cases.

The scene at precinct No. 42, the one with the final missing votes, was “chaos” Monday night, said Jill Joseph, a rank-and-file Democratic voter who backed Sanders in the caucuses.

None of the 400-plus Democrats wanted to be in charge of the caucus, so a man who had shown up just to vote reluctantly stepped forward. As Joseph was leaving with the untrained caucus chairman, who is one of her neighbors, “I looked at him and said, ‘Who called in the results of our caucus?’ And we didn’t know.”

So somebody with no training was dragged out of the line of people waiting to vote and told to use the new Microsoft app to report the results. What could possibly go wrong?

That election – to be generous with the term – came down to a difference of two tenths of one percent. They won’t release the final numbers they have, and even if they wanted to they would be meaningless. They were counting heads visually. There are no paper ballots to go back and recount even if you wanted to. Hillary Clinton gets to claim a victory because of the rules established by her party in Iowa. She may have won by a little or a lot or she may have lost. Nobody is ever going to know.



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David Strom 1:00 PM | June 13, 2024