Iowa Democratic Party chair issues urgent guidance on paper records collection, promises late afternoon results


DES MOINES, Iowa — The chair of the Iowa Democratic Party wrote an email distributed to election officials on Tuesday morning saying precinct results from Monday’s caucuses would be collected by hand, signaling a drawn-out process that could add many hours to an already chaotic caucus.

“Today, Tuesday February 4th, party staff will be meeting with each and every county and party chair or temporary chair in Iowa to collect voter results, caucus math worksheets, presidential preference cards, and new voter registration forms,” state party chair Troy Price wrote in an email obtained by Yahoo News.

“What comes next is vital to the integrity of our Caucus process, and we need each of your efforts in order to make it happen,” Price wrote.

Later in the morning, Price told campaign officials on a phone call that he expects to release results at 4 p.m. today.

Carl Voss, the precinct chair for Precinct 55, verifies results at the caucus site for precinct 55
Carl Voss, the chair of Precinct 55, verifies results at the caucus site for his precinct in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday. (Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Wire)

The Iowa Democratic Party held a conference call Tuesday afternoon with all of the candidates’ teams to update them on the process. At the top of the call, a source said, Price promised to release the “majority of results” from the caucuses by 4 p.m.

Those results, however, will not include all precincts. When an unnamed aide asked when the rest of the results would be reported, a state party spokesman said that they are “continuing to work through that process.”

“Today, tomorrow, the next day, a week, a month?” pressed the unnamed staffer.

“We are continuing to work through our process just as soon as we can. As soon as we are able to, in a timely manner, we’ll release the results,” the spokesman replied.

Price on the call attempted to assure the campaigns that the party has “a process in place” for collecting and releasing results.

Biden campaign general counsel Dana Remus questioned what Price meant. “It’s not clear to me whether you’re saying you’re releasing the majority of results from the state or just the majority of results that you all now have, not indicating whether you have complete results,” Remus said.

Another campaign staffer asked if there is paper verification for the results. The officials confirmed there is.

“So what is that paper verification, what do you have to back up these results?” the staffer asked.

The officials said they had preference cards and math worksheets, which they were collecting from various caucus sites. Price repeatedly stressed that rolling results and collection of paper was a normal operating procedure for the caucuses.

“This is just like what would have happened on caucus night. This is not the end of the results,” Price said. “We want to get some results out there, and folks have been asking for that.”

The state party officials were asked by one campaign staffer what they meant by the majority of results. They would only say that it would be the figures from more than 50 percent of the caucus sites.

The chaotic call between party and campaign officials came as Price and the rest of the state party have been scrambling to respond to criticism on all fronts, from presidential campaigns, caucus leaders and members of the GOP, following a decision Monday evening to slow down reporting caucus results for “quality control.”

As hours ticked by without viable numbers, precinct chairs reported difficulties with a new app, which the state party has paid a private company, Shadow, to develop. The app was supposed to make it easier for volunteers to send in their precinct’s final tabulations, but many instead encountered errors and chose to report their results by phone, only to be met by long hold times.

Screenshot from Iowa caucuses voting app
Screenshot from Iowa caucuses voting app. (Yahoo News)

Cody Hankerson, a 24-year-old precinct captain in Sioux City’s 28th, says he found the app especially glitchy in reporting second realignment data, which refers to when supporters of candidates who fall below the 15 percent threshold are forced to join with backers of another potential nominee. Hankerson told Yahoo News he was unable to properly account for voters who chose not to align with another candidate and, rather, simply walked out.

In Hankerson’s precinct, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was unable to hit viability, and about half of Sanders’s supporters left the caucus site instead of realigning. But Hankerson found himself unable to account for that within the app because it was impossible to record “fewer attendees than what you started with,” he said.

Unable to enter that in the app, he noted those voters as uncommitted.

“The biggest problem I had was reporting realignment. When I saw hours later a statement from the IDP noting that there were inconsistencies in reporting, I felt it must have been that,” he said.

Hankerson — who attended caucus training for the last six months — found the app interface difficult to use and first came into contact with a “test” version of the results reporting app four days before the caucuses. He received no formal tutorial, he said.

Fairfield, Iowa, Precinct 4 caucus chair Sallee Haerr and caucus secretary Christi Welsh
Fairfield, Iowa, Precinct 4 caucus chair Sallee Haerr and caucus secretary Christi Welsh review caucus results. (Sue Dorfman/ZUMA Wire)

“Many other volunteers in my area were 70 and above. I can’t imagine that in every precinct in every county, there was someone who was 24 and engaged in party politics,” he said. He added that while he is “pretty sure that I did it right, I cannot be totally sure.”

He does feel that his precinct’s paper trail is “rock solid” — a messaging that tracks with sentiment from the state party.

“If there’s anyone I would not want to be right now, it would be the CEO of Shadow or Troy Price,” he said. “They have both had hard days.”

A senior adviser to a presidential campaign with a background in digital issues told Yahoo News that many people were not surprised by what happened. Democratic tech expertise “is so insular [and] is why we’re falling behind,” the adviser said.

“Democrats have let people fail up for so long, and these are the consequences,” the adviser said. “Everyone hires their friends and everyone they used to work with without any vetting all the time.”

Hunter Walker contributed reporting.


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