Pete Buttigieg Wins Iowa Caucus

(Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images)

(Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images)

Safa Hameed

On February 3, the first election contest of the primaries kicked off with the start of the Democratic Iowa Caucus, resulting in a major lead and win for Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg.

The Iowa Caucus is one of the first elections of the primaries, and is unique and distinct from traditional primary voting. Traditional primary voting usually involves voters casting their choice via ballot, while a caucus requires citizens to get physically involved in the election process. However, they both have the same purpose: they decide how many voting delegates each candidate gets when it comes time to decide the official party presidential nominee at the respective party convention. The caucus just requires a few extra steps.

  1. Registered Iowa democrats meet at one of 1,700 precinct locations, which include public libraries, schools, and churches, in order to begin participation by 7 pm.
  2. Voters then separate themselves into designated locations in the room for each candidate, similar to the game four corners.
  3. After the first separation, caucus officials will count the number of voters who support each nominee in order to see who is viable or has at least 15 percent of total votes in the location. The supporters of nominees who are under the vote threshold have a chance to vote again for a different nominee.
  4. After the first and second separation, voters are asked to submit their ballots in order to leave a paper trail in case recounts are required.
  5. Lastly, caucus officials will count them up, and using an official formula, declare the number of “state delegate equivalents” (SDEs) for each candidate and in return the number of national convention delegates.

There are some changes, however, which include the introduction of nearly 1,000 satellite caucus locations that will be held across the country and globe for Iowans who unable to make it back to Iowa. Also, voters who vote for a viable candidate the first time around are unable to change their vote and must record their pick via ballot for security. Lastly, the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) will reveal all data from the first and second separations, known as alignments, in order to make sure that the final results are all around consistent.

With all that being said, the victor of the night was Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg who garnered 26.2 percent off all votes receiving 13 of Iowa’s 41 delegates. Bernie Sanders trailed by 0.1 percent (for a total of 26.1 percent) giving him 12 delegates. Elizabeth Warren with 18 percent received 8 delegates, Joe Biden with 15.8 percent received 6 delegates, and lastly, Amy Klobuchar with 12.3 percent received 1 delegate. What made this caucus memorable from its predecessors, is the fact that the results had notable errors and inconsistencies.

At the end of the night, when all the results were expected to be released, the IDP had little information to share other than that there was a delay because of “quality control checks.” It wasn’t until days later that final results were revealed, but the data failed to add up, and in some cases was completely wrong. For example, in more than 70 precincts, new voters were allowed in after the start of the first alignment even though this is strictly against the rules. Furthermore, in ten cases, it was noted that the number of votes for viable candidates went down after the first round even though that is impossible because viable candidates can only gain votes after the first alignment. A handful of precincts also assigned more SDEs than they were allotted, and in 15 cases nominees were given a fewer amount of SDEs despite having the higher final alignment number. In fact, the IDPs results were at times completely different from the ones disclosed by the precincts, who also reported trouble with trying to send in data via the official caucus app, according to a source from The Washington Post.

These mistakes demonstrate the IDPs failure to adhere to its own rules and the lack of regulation within the caucus itself. Many prominent Democrats professed their frustration and embarrassment that this situation put on them as members of the Democratic party. Bernie Sanders expressed his discontent in an interview: “Look, all I can say about Iowa is, it was an embarrassment.”  The Democratic National Committee chair, Tom Perez, also shared his frustrations, saying, “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.”