Iowa Dems Cite ‘Quality Control’ Efforts to Explain Delay in Reporting Caucus Results

A precinct secretary and other officials look over documents at a caucus in Des Moines, Iowa, February 3, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Preliminary results in the Iowa caucuses were heavily delayed Monday night, with Democratic party officials explaining the halt was due to “quality control” efforts in tallying results.

As of 11:15 p.m., the state party had reported zero percent of districts due to a “technical issue,” prompting speculation that a number of first-time changes in how votes are tabulated and shared have backfired.

“The integrity of the results is paramount. We have experienced a delay in the results due to quality checks and the fact that the IDP is reporting out three data sets for the first time,” the Iowa Democratic Party said in a statement to explain the delay. “What we know right now is that around 25 percent of precincts have reported, and early data indicates turnout is on pace for 2016.”

Turnout in 2016 was approximately 172,000 Iowans, down from a 2008-high of 240,000.

The state party later released another statement clarifying that the delay was due to “inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results.”

Many Iowa precinct chairs reportedly abandoned a new app that was implemented this year to report results, choosing instead to report manually due to “technical issues.” Those precinct captains have opted instead for the traditional phone hotline to report results, which led to further delays. In another break with precedent, the state party is for the first time releasing results on the first tally of votes, the second realignment, and the overall delegate vote in the name of “transparency.” Only the final results were released in past years.

In their second statement of the night, the state Democratic party attributed the delay to “inconsistencies” in the three result numbers they tallied and said they would rectify the situation by relying on the “paper trail.”

“We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results. In addition to the tech systems being used to tabulate results, we are also using photos of results and a paper trail to validate all results match and ensure that we have confidence and accuracy in the numbers we report,” the statement read. “This is simply a reporting issue, the app did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion. The underlying data and paper trail is sound and we will simply take time to further report the results.”

Sean Bagniewski, the Democratic Party chairman in Iowa’s most populous county, Polk County, told the New York Times that only 20 percent of his 177 chairs could log into the app. 

One precinct chair revealed to Bloomberg that he was unable to access the app and was stuck on the phone hotline for over half an hour.

Another precinct chair who was live on CNN said he was on hold for over an hour while waiting to relay results, and was patched through live on television, only for the state party to hang up before he could deliver the results.

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