By Jim Ellis
Feb. 4, 2020 — The reporting problem that arose in the Iowa Democratic Caucuses last night have left us with no results for what could be as long as a full day or more after votes were cast, but it still appears as if a clear winner and loser have emerged. The winner and loser terms have a different meaning in the Iowa Caucus context, however.
Voters attended meetings in 1,679 precincts and the party organizers were supposed to submit their first ballot and final alignment numbers through a specially designed application. The app failed, and so did the party’s back-up plan. Therefore, while voting occurred in all of the precincts, less than one-third of the totals have been received at the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters at the end of the night. The party spokespeople say they will not release any numbers until the entire state reports, and the 1st and 2nd round totals have been verified.
Meeting attenders cast their first ballot and the candidates failing to attain 15 percent support in the precinct were eliminated. In the final alignment round, those voting for a non-qualifying candidate were then lobbied to vote for a candidate who did surpass the 15 percent threshold and would thus qualify for delegates to advance to the state convention on June 13. The state delegates will then vote to assign Iowa’s 41 first-ballot delegates to the Democratic National Convention, but the eventual official apportionment will closely follow the Caucus votes.
What we began seeing from the fastest reporting precincts that were released, and that was less than two percent of the statewide vote, was a bunching at the top among Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) were in need of further support from around the state to reach the 15 percent mark, but both are close. Therefore, it does appear possible that all five of these contenders could qualify for a share of the state’s delegates.
The unfolding situation seems to favor one person in particular, while disfavoring another. On the short end is Sen. Sanders, even though he looks to clinch first place. The glitch cost him the opportunity to declare outright victory in a timely fashion before a national television audience. The most fortunate candidate looks to be Biden, whose early performance suggests he might not even qualify for delegates in a substantial number of precincts. The reporting problem prevented headline stories claiming that he was Iowa’s under-performer.