The first, long-awaited contest for the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination in the farm state of Iowa was mired in chaos Tuesday, with results yet to be announced a day after complicated caucus voting ended.
The state Democratic party was unable to report even a single vote count 12 hours after about 100,000 of the party faithful showed up to vote for their favorite candidate. Party officials blamed the snafu on vote inconsistencies being reported on a mobile app specially designed for the vote counting throughout the rural state, which every four years stages the first political party voting to eventually pick presidential nominees for the national election in November.
Iowa Democrats said they expect to report results sometime Tuesday, but it was not clear when.
"We are validating every piece of data we have against our paper trail," Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price told reporters as the vote counting dragged on late Monday and into Tuesday. "That system is taking longer than expected but it's in place to ensure we are eventually able to report results with full confidence."
Later, Price declared there was no cybersecurity intrusion in the app.
He said, "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."
Price said that through use of paper documentation of the voting at more than 1,600 precinct caucuses throughout the state it has "been able to verify that the data recorded in the app and used to calculate State Delegate Equivalents is valid and accurate."
Price added, "While our plan is to release results as soon as possible today, our ultimate goal is to ensure that the integrity and accuracy of the process continues to be upheld.”
With the Iowa results unknown, the top Democrats immediately turned their attention to the rural northeastern state of New Hampshire, where a party presidential primary is set for next Tuesday. New Hampshire is next in a long string of state contests set to culminate in the party's selection in July at its national convention of a nominee to face Republican President Donald Trump in November.
Several of the candidates flew from Iowa to New Hampshire early Tuesday to begin campaigning there without knowing the Iowa results.
Trump, while winning the Iowa Republican caucus vote, gloated about the disarray in the Iowa Democratic vote counting, mocking it as "an unmitigated disaster."
"The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is 'Trump,'” he boasted.
He claimed that the vote-counting fiasco was "not the fault of Iowa, it is the Do Nothing Democrats fault. As long as I am President, Iowa will stay where it is. Important tradition!" to hold the first presidential nominating contest.
It is not the fault of Iowa, it is the Do Nothing Democrats fault. As long as I am President, Iowa will stay where it is. Important tradition! https://t.co/bX3FLvua1C
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2020
Regardless of how the Iowa results turn out, the faulty vote count and the surrounding controversy after months of intensive campaigning and vast spending by the candidates is seen as a humiliation for the state party and will raise questions about the state's quadrennial role as the first-in-the-nation caucus.
Still, the state's three leading Republicans, Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst and Gov. Kim Reynolds, defended Iowa's role in picking presidential nominees for both Democrats and Republicans and said they were confident "that every last vote will be counted and every last voice heard" in the opposition party's contest.
The Iowa Democratic outcome, even though it is delayed, is important for the Democratic challengers seeking to make Trump a one-term president, as they seek to gain momentum for the contests that follow.
Polls in Iowa showed Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-declared democratic socialist, and former Vice President Joe Biden, making his third run for the party's presidential nomination, leading the pack of 11 candidates. Three other challengers — Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — also had support in the state.
But the absence of an outcome on Monday night deprived all of them a chance to tout a victory or high finish on national television as evidence of their standing to take on Trump nine months from now.
"The history of the caucuses is that the candidate that does better than expected is often the one that gets attention and a real boost in votes in later states. But, of course, if we don't know how they did, we don't know who did better than expected and who did worse than expected," said David Redlawsk, professor of political science at the University of Delaware. "So in that sense, New Hampshire is only eight days away, even if we get some results from Iowa, they may be eclipsed very quickly."
The Iowa caucus voting was a night of American democracy in action, with voters spending the better part of a winter evening clustering in groups of supporters for Sanders, Biden, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and others in hopes of achieving "viability" to qualify for delegates.
Voters showed their preferences by raising their hands or gathering in groups of like-minded supporters of the candidates.
The goal in the caucus was to reach what was called the "viability threshold" — the 15% of support needed to move on to the second round. Backers of any candidate who failed to meet that 15% were given a chance to throw their support behind their second choice at each caucus.