The Iowa caucus explained
The 2020 Iowa caucuses for both the Democratic and Republican parties were held on Tuesday.
The Iowa caucuses are noteworthy as the first major contest of the United States presidential primary season. Although unrepresentative of the nation’s overall ethnic demographic, with approximately 90% of the state population being white, the caucuses are still a potential indication of how a candidate will do in later primaries.
About half of the winners of the Iowa caucus have gone on to win their party’s nomination for President.
Unlike primary elections in most other U.S. States, where registered voters go to polling places to cast ballots, Iowans instead gather at local caucus meetings to discuss and vote on the presidential candidates.
While the Republican caucus results were released almost immediately, with incumbent Donald Trump leading with 97% of the vote, the Democratic caucus results were delayed significantly.
The delay emerged as a result of a new app, called IowaReporter, that the Democratic party paid a developer to create to streamline reporting. Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana Mayor and a frontrunning candidate, paid the developer, Shadow, Inc., $42,500 for software rights and subscriptions. Tara McGowan, a 34-year-old Democratic political strategist and the founder of ACRONYM, Shadow, Inc.’s parent company, is married to Pete Buttigieg’s campaign strategist, Michael Halle. Buttigieg’s campaign had no role in the app used by the Iowa Democratic Party. Due to a coding problem, the app glitched and the voting data for nearly 1,700 precincts across the state was unable to be reported.
Precincts turned to phone lines to directly report the results to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. But the phone lines backed up quickly as the app crashed, and many were left on hold for more than an hour while trying to make their report.
In an attempt to publicize their results, some precincts tweeted pictures of the sheets they used to tally the votes. The phone number for reporting the results via phone was listed on these sheets, and following the social media posts by multiple precincts, online trolls began flooding the number with prank calls, which in turn made gathering the correct information even more difficult.
The debacle left campaigns, media outlets and the general public without official results and no indication on when said results would be received.
After four days of waiting, the full results came in, revealing Buttigieg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were in the lead.
Juliana Baer, a freshman history education major, said that she was pleasantly surprised by Buttigieg’s performance.
“I hope that the caucus results will influence other voters in different states to view [Buttigieg] as a viable option,” Baer said.
In the aftermath, both Buttigieg and Sanders claimed to be the true winner of the caucus and proceeded to New Hampshire with the goal of solidifying their status in the nation’s first primary election.
The difference between the two candidates in terms of caucus results is infinitesimal. Buttigieg received 26.2% of the vote and was assigned 13 delegates, while Sanders received 26.1% of the vote and was assigned 12 delegates.
To win the Democratic nomination, a candidate must secure 1,990 delegates.