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5 things to know about the Iowa caucus disaster

So who’s actually won the Iowa caucus? We still have no idea.

5 things to know about the Iowa caucus disaster
[Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images]
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Well, the Democratic presidential race has gotten off to an . . . interesting start. Last night was the all-important Iowa caucus, in which Iowa’s registered Democrats vote for their preferred presidential candidate. The Iowa caucus is considered to be somewhat of a bellwether when it comes to presidential elections—at least insofar as choosing who will run against the incumbent president—because it’s the first time anyone actually votes for any candidates.

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The candidate who wins Iowa gets a massive boost in the polls (and usually sees their election coffers soar). The Democrat who won the Iowa caucus in six of the last eight events went on to become the party’s presidential nominee.

But last night’s Iowa caucus was anything but normal. As of the time of this writing, no one still knows the final tally of the votes, which means no one knows who won.

Here’s what we do know:

  • Voting actually took place: By all reports, the actual voting in the Iowa caucus went off without a hitch. Iowans were able to show up to their polling places and cast ballots just fine. The hitch comes in the reporting of those ballots.
  • Blame the mobile app: That hitch in the reporting of the ballots appears to stem from a problem with a mobile phone app that prevented precincts from easily reporting vote totals. As HuffPost notes, the app was reportedly made by a company called Shadow Inc. The problem with it? “The app by all accounts just like doesn’t work,” Shawn Sebastian, a precinct secretary in Story County, Iowa, told CNN.
  • “Not a hack”: Needless to say, fears (and internet conspiracies) began circulating about potential hacks or intrusions into Iowa caucus voting. However, the Iowa Democratic Party soon put out a statement saying the problem is strictly a non-nefarious technical issue. In the statement, Iowa Democratic Party communications director Mandy McClure said: “We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results . . . 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 will simply take time to further report the results.”
  • Candidates still hint at victory: That lack of reporting hasn’t stopped some candidates from guessing how they did, with Bernie Sanders telling a crowd shortly before midnight: “I have a strong feeling that at some point the results will be announced and when those results are announced, I have a good feeling we’re going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa.” On the other hand, Pete Buttigieg seems to have declared victory already, telling a crowd: “Tonight, an improbable hope became an undeniable reality. So we don’t know all the results, but we know by the time it’s all said and done—Iowa, you have shocked the nation. Because by all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.”
  • We should know more later today: So who actually won the Iowa caucus? We still have no idea. At the time of this writing, 0% of Iowa precincts have publicly reported. And when will we know something? Sometime on Tuesday—maybe. As a senior campaign adviser to the Iowa Democratic Party told CNN: “They literally have no verified results. We won’t know anything until some time Tuesday—at least.”

While many people are understandably upset over the problems that have beset the Iowa caucus, some people seem to be taking glee in it, with Donald Trump Jr. apparently happy to promote conspiracy theories about it on Twitter.

But perhaps Nate Silverman’s FiveThirtyEight said it best: The 2020 Iowa Caucus has been a complete “shitshow.”

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