Marion County caucus-goers said that Monday’s meetings ran smoothly, calling the event an overall “great experience.” However, problems occurred when it came time to report the results.
As of 1 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, the Iowa Democratic Party had yet to release any results from the previous night’s caucuses. Receiving attention from state and national meeting, headlines tell tales of the IDP’s failure to share results in a timely manner.
The results delay is, according to the party, due to a calculation glitch within the party’s new results reporting app that hindered the party’s ability to accurately report results from Monday night.
Caucus precinct officials, which are volunteers that run meetings at each precinct, then faced significant delays in attempting to report the results over jammed telephone lines.
“From what I experienced, the caucus for the Knoxville Township precinct went fine. But I also can see where problems could have arisen,” said Russ Benedict, who was a first-time precinct chair. “I had tried numerous times to load the app onto my phone and test it during the days leading up to the caucus, but I kept getting error messages. So by 36 hours prior to the caucus, I already knew that I was not going to rely on the app — I would use the phone number to call in results instead.”
Benedict says that although he sat on hold for a significant amount of time, he fully expected that would be the case.
“When I did get through to a person, however, the system of reporting results seemed to work perfectly, and the person I talked to was very helpful and knowledgeable,” Benedict said. “So although I understand that issues did arise in other precincts, I feel our event worked well, and I am 100 percent confident in the numbers that I reported.”
Cheri Scherr, the precinct chair for Pella Ward 1, said she was able to upload caucus results to the new application with no issues. However, Scherr said other sources are saying there were “bugs” in the application, delivering incorrect results.
“My app worked, but from what I understand, the results may have not delivered correctly,” Scherr said.
Otherwise, Scherr said caucus-goers responded well to the new process.
This year, at the end of the caucuses, each person in attendance filled out and signed a card “preference card,” show which candidate each person supported during the event. The preference cards were collected by precinct chairs, providing a paper trail for how many supporters each candidate had.
The delay in results angered national TV commentators across the networks into early Tuesday morning, with many calling into question whether Iowa should keep its status as the first step in a long line toward the parties selecting their Presidential candidates. Some local attendees agreed.
“Knoxville Two was issue free and ran well,” said Jeromy Metier. “The paper trail is great, and hopefully this will be our last caucus and 2024 and beyond will be primaries.”
Other caucus-goers across Knoxville reported the events at their precincts also went smoothly. Despite the fact that results have not yet been reported, members of the community do not seem phased by the delay.
“Zero issues at my precinct in Knoxville. Everyone was cheerful and patient,” said Renae Douglas. “…Our leader and secretary did a wonderful job keeping everyone organized and the candidate representatives were big helps. It’s a brand new process to eliminate questions about counts and I like that there is a signed paper trail.”
Despite the glitch with reporting results, many local caucus-goers felt the event was an overall success. The presence of the paper trail is helping to keep their confidence in the process.
“The process went smoothly at Knoxville One. No issues,” said Jill Dewit. “It’s unfortunate that the online reporting system failed but they implemented individual caucus cards this year so there is an excellent paper trail to verify results. All in all a great experience!”
The Democratic Party said they ran quality control checks on the incoming data Monday night and immediately realized there were errors in the data being reported by their systems. They say the underlying reports are accurate, and that the issue was related to a coding problem within the results application they used.
“As part of our investigation, we determined with certainty that the underlying data collected via the app was sound,” the Iowa Democratic Party said in a statement Tuesday morning. “While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed. The application’s reporting issue did not impact the ability of precinct chairs to report data accurately.”
State officials have also weighed in on the debacle.
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, released a statement to clarify that while his office administers elections in the state, the individual parties manage the caucuses.
He also supported the party’s efforts to take time to ensure the results are accurate.
“The accuracy of the Iowa Democratic Party’s vote totals is much more important than the timeliness of releasing the results,” he said in a statement. “I am glad to hear they have a paper trail for their votes, just as we use paper ballots in all official elections in the State of Iowa. I support IDP while they take their time and conduct checks and balances to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the votes.”
Monday night, a joint statement was released by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and U.S. Senators for Iowa Chuck Grassley and Join Ernst, all Republicans, all urging the party to take time to ensure accuracy.
“Iowa’s bipartisan first-in-the-nation status helped lead to the nomination of President Obama and has the full backing of President Trump,” the three officials said in the joint statement. “The process is not suffering because of a short delay in knowing the final results. Iowans and all Americans should know we have complete confidence that every last vote will be counted and every last voice will be heard.”
The Iowa Caucuses, long the first official race in a line of other caucuses and primaries to decide each party’s presidential candidate, make Iowa a crucial state for candidates to gain support in the race early to build support.
With that importance comes a sizable economic impact as campaigns and media from around the world pile into hotels across the state covering campaign stops and the Caucuses.
Catch Des Moines, a convention and visitor’s bureau for Iowa’s capital city, estimates that the 2020 Caucuses would generate $11.3 million for the city of Des Moines alone in the week leading up to Monday’s Caucus.
Local media get a significant kick as well, with candidates dropping more than $69 million prior to Monday’s caucus to run several advertising campaigns, the Des Moines Register reported.
President Donald Trump, who won overwhelming support from Republicans Monday in Iowa, took to Twitter to support Iowa’s continued role as the first presidential contest in the nation.
“It is not the fault of Iowa, it is the Do Nothing Democrats fault,” he tweeted. “As long as I am President, Iowa will stay where it is. Important tradition!”