Iowa Dems Will Release At Least Half Of Caucus Results Soon — But Which Half?

DES MOINES, IOWA - FEBRUARY 03: Supporters of Democratic presidential candidates former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) prepare to caucus for them in the gymnasium at Roosevelt... DES MOINES, IOWA - FEBRUARY 03: Supporters of Democratic presidential candidates former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) prepare to caucus for them in the gymnasium at Roosevelt High School February 03, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa is the first contest in the 2020 presidential nominating process with the candidates then moving on to New Hampshire. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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February 4, 2020 2:42 p.m.
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The Iowa Democratic Party has acquired a mop, and it’s going to clean up… about half of the mess it made last night.

That’s the latest news from the Iowa Democratic Party, which bungled its caucus accounting last night and still has not released any results from the nation’s first presidential primary contest.

In a statement to TPM, spokesperson Mandy McClure said Tuesday that the IDP “will be releasing the majority of caucus results at 4p.m. CST.”

“Moving forward — just like we would would [sic] have on caucus night — we will continue to release results as we are able to,” McClure said. “We are also executing our plans and procedures to gather the paper documents and chasing any additional precincts to report results as we normally would on caucus night.”

“We want to get some results out there,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price separately told campaigns on a phone call Tuesday.

The statements raise a few questions. How much of a “majority” will the party release this afternoon? What paper documents are being gathered, and for what purpose? And which “additional precincts” is the party “chasing”?

Releasing only a selective portion of the results may also have unintended consequences. Depending on what results are released, the numbers could be more misleading than they are helpful for campaigns and caucus-watchers eager to find out how each candidate fared in the first-in-the-nation presidential contest.

“I just don’t understand what that means to release half of the data,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said Tuesday. “I think they ought to get it together and release all of the data.”

The catch is Iowa’s caucus system: Across the state, in more than 1,600 high school gyms, union halls, cafeterias, mosques and other meeting places, Democrats gathered for the communal voting spectacle that defines the state’s system. Some of these caucus sites held hundreds of people, some just a dozen. Some are in bustling urban centers, some in sparse rural towns.

So, depending on what “majority” of caucus results is released, it could paint a distorted picture: Say, for example, the results released Tuesday afternoon disproportionately come from college towns, or farmland-heavy counties — this data might hypothetically favor the progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), in the former case, or the more moderate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), in the latter.

Another complication: The Iowa Democratic Party this year committed to releasing three numbers, each a benchmark of the caucus process. The “first count” and “second count” measure individuals’ votes at caucus sites before and after nonviable candidates are eliminated, while a third number — the “state delegate equivalent” — counts the representatives who, ultimately, decide the winner of the state.

Any missing data related to precinct location or vote count could undermine the results released Tuesday afternoon.

Indeed, Sanders’ campaign acknowledged the inherently flawed nature of incomplete data early Tuesday morning, when it released its own organizers’ caucus data showing the Vermont senator tentatively placing first in the state. The campaign released results from nearly 40% of precincts, it said.

The partial tally, Sanders’ campaign said, represented “precincts from all four congressional districts from a cross section of urban and rural parts of the state.”

But, senior Sanders adviser Jeff Weaver hedged, “we recognize that this does not replace the full data from the Iowa Democratic Party.”

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