the national interest

We Still Don’t Know Who Won the Iowa Democratic Caucus

Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock

The Iowa Democratic Party released partial data Tuesday evening from its shambolic caucus process. The bad news is that officials still don’t know who won. The worse news is that, even after all the data has come in, they still probably won’t know.

The partial figures reflect just 62 percent of precincts — not enough to draw firm conclusions about a tight race, which this one was. Iowa Democratic Party chair Troy Price assured reporters that the voting data is secure and that the problems have all come in transmitting and reporting it. Eventually, a full total will be made available.

However, even a full total may well be highly inconclusive. The party’s complex new rules mean there will be not one, not two, but three different totals. Based on the partial returns, Bernie Sanders is winning the initial preference of voters (i.e., the candidate they chose when they walked into the caucus). But the caucus process has rounds of switching and trading, when supporters of candidates who fail to get 15 percent of the vote can realign with others.

The official measure is of the state delegate equivalents, which indicates how many delegates a candidate has won after the musical-chairs game is finished. So far, Pete Buttigieg is winning that. If it holds up, his victory in that category would be a fairly major surprise, as earlier polls had shown Sanders winning. But when this outcome will be known, and whether it has anything close to the normal impact, remains to be seen.

We Still Don’t Know Who Won the Iowa Democratic Caucus