The chairman of the National Democratic Committee has called for a recount of results from the Iowa caucuses, after nearly three days of chaos and confusion that have wreaked havoc on the party’s presidential nominating process.
With a few Iowa precincts still outstanding, the results of Monday’s caucuses were too close to call on Thursday. Pete Buttigieg, 38, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Bernie Sanders, 78, the Vermont senator, were virtually tied for first place in terms of delegates. The New York Times reported that more than 100 precincts had reported inconsistent or incomplete results.
“Enough is enough,” Tom Perez, the DNC chairman, said on Twitter. “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.”
Mr Perez said a recanvass was a “review of the worksheets from each caucus site to ensure accuracy”.
The Iowa Democratic Party on Thursday afternoon appeared to push back on Mr Perez. In a statement, Troy Price, the state party chair, made no mention of the DNC, but said Iowa Democrats were “prepared” to recanvass if they received a request from one of the campaigns “in compliance with the Iowa delegate selection plan”.
Mr Price and the Iowa Democrats have come under attack for their handling of Monday’s caucuses, the first big event in a nominating process to determine which Democrat will take on Donald Trump in November’s US presidential election.
Results from the caucuses had been expected on Monday night. But a combination of technical issues and human errors led to significant delays in reporting.
Mr Sanders nevertheless claimed victory on Thursday, telling reporters in New Hampshire that he had received 6,000 more votes in Iowa than Mr Buttigieg.
“From where I come, when you get 6,000 more votes, that’s generally regarded to be the winner,” Mr Sanders said.
Unlikely a primary, where voters cast a secret ballot, caucuses are public gatherings at places like schools or libraries, where caucus-goers stand with their neighbours in support of different candidates.
The Iowa caucuses involved two rounds of voting in each precinct, with caucus-goers aligning with their first preference in the first round, and realigning to a second choice in the second round if their initial choice did not meet the 15 per cent threshold required to advance to the next round.
After the second round, “state delegate equivalents” were allocated proportionally in each precinct. Mr Sanders has argued that while Mr Buttigieg may end up with more state delegate equivalents, he secured support from more individual caucus-goers in the first and second rounds.
“What will not happen again, if I have anything to say about it, is a caucus this complicated,” Mr Sanders told reporters.
The next major test for Mr Sanders, Mr Buttigieg and the other Democratic presidential hopefuls will come on Tuesday, when New Hampshire Democrats will host their primary.
Ahead of the primary, six Democratic candidates will face off in a televised debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Friday night: Mr Sanders, Mr Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator, Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota senator, billionaire activist Tom Steyer and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
A Monmouth University poll conducted this week and published on Thursday showed Mr Sanders leading the Democratic field in New Hampshire, with 24 per cent support, followed by Mr Buttigieg at 20 per cent and former vice-president Joe Biden at 17 per cent.
Ms Warren and Ms Klobuchar had 13 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively. The poll had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points, and more than three-quarters of respondents said the caucus results in Iowa had not changed their thinking.
Mr Sanders also maintained an edge over his rivals in fundraising, having raked in $25m in January alone — more than any of his competitors raised in the entire fourth quarter of 2019.
Mr Sanders, who raised more than $34m in the fourth quarter, started 2020 with $18m cash on hand, compared to Mr Buttigieg, who had $14.5m in his coffers, and Mr Biden, who had $9m, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings. Ms Warren had $13.7m cash on hand at the start of the year, while Ms Klobuchar had $5m.