With 97 percent of the precincts reporting and all sorts of checks underway to head off further mistakes, Iowa Democrats might have thought they could see light at the end of the dark and nasty 2020 caucus tunnel. And had the basic results been completely settled, the various campaigns and media observers might have been willing to move along, leaving any further examination of results to those obsessive-compulsive folk who crave absolute accuracy.
But alas for the party professionals and volunteers at the center of this cyclone lingering over Iowa, Pete Buttigieg’s lead in the State Delegate Equivalent (SDE) tabulation — considered by the state party itself and many media outlets to be the official optic for determining a winner — over Bernie Sanders has shrunk to nearly nothing (three SDEs, to be exact). So controversy is breaking out all over again, on issues ranging from alleged mistakes in filling out precinct worksheets to disputes over calculating SDEs in the “satellite” (e.g., nontraditional) precincts where Bernie Sanders seems to have done especially well. Undoubtedly hearing complaints from near and far that the Establishment is stealing an election from Bernie, DNC chairman Tom Perez has leaped into the fray, as the Des Moines Register reports:
The top official for the Democratic Party on Thursday said he wants the Iowa Democratic Party to recanvass its caucus results following extensive delays in reporting results and inaccurate information being released.
Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, made the request publicly on Twitter.
“Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass,” Perez tweeted.
A supplemental tweet from Perez indicated that this would involve “a review of the worksheets from each caucus site to ensure accuracy.” Iowa has 1,774 precincts, including 87 “satellite” precincts set up to accommodate people who could not attend traditional caucuses. And according to the Register, the state party’s process for recanvassing caucuses extends beyond worksheets:
The recanvass will include an examination of caucus math worksheets and presidential preference cards and “inconsistencies are declared if results on official precinct or satellite forms are different from the results reported through the caucus reporting tool or by telephone,” the manual said.
If the recanvass does indeed involve examination of presidential preference cards — the individual cards every caucusgoer filled out Monday night — there are roughly 160,000 of those. There’s also some question as to whether the DNC — or even the IDP — has standing to initiate a recanvass, a process usually reserved to campaigns (who are, additionally, usually expected to defray the cost!).
Aside from the tightening SDE battle, some clearly erroneous results (showing Deval Patrick suddenly moving ahead of Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer) released by IDP on Wednesday may have fed the renewed desire for additional reviews. But at the same time, there are fresh eruptions of rage on Bernie Twitter at the DNC for ordering a recanvass as Sanders appeared to be closing the gap with Buttigieg. And there’s no telling how long the proposed process would take, at a time when both Sanders and Buttigieg appear to be battling for the lead in New Hampshire, which votes on February 11.
For political junkies and the campaigns, this is an endlessly frustrating loop of mistakes and misfortune. For Iowa Democrats, it’s a nightmare that just won’t end.