RSN Fundraising Banner
FOCUS | Iowa Autopsy Report: DNC Meddling Led to Caucus Debacle
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=57499"><span class="small">Tyler Pager, POLITICO</span></a>   
Tuesday, 15 December 2020 12:08

Pager writes: "Democratic National Committee meddling, combined with missteps by the state Democratic Party, were the primary drivers of the chaos that torpedoed the Iowa caucuses earlier this year, according to a new audit commissioned by the state party."

Supporters of Bernie Sanders wait for results to come in at his caucus night watch party on Feb. 3, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Supporters of Bernie Sanders wait for results to come in at his caucus night watch party on Feb. 3, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Iowa Autopsy Report: DNC Meddling Led to Caucus Debacle

By Tyler Pager, POLITICO

15 December 20

State party audit finds plenty of blame to go around.

emocratic National Committee meddling, combined with missteps by the state Democratic Party, were the primary drivers of the chaos that torpedoed the Iowa caucuses earlier this year, according to a new audit commissioned by the state party.

The report, which was distributed to the Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee at a meeting Saturday morning and obtained by POLITICO, identified a series of errors made by the DNC, IDP and the technology company contracted by the state party to build a reporting app to collect caucus results.

The February caucuses were overrun by foul-ups: The state party was unable to report a winner on caucus night, the mobile app to report results failed to work for many precinct chairs, the back-up telephone systems were jammed and some precincts had initial reporting errors. The state party chair, Troy Price, resigned in the wake of the debacle, which put Iowa’s status as the first in the nation nominating contest in serious jeopardy.

But the report pins the blame squarely on the DNC for the heart of the problem on caucus night — the delay in the reporting of the results. According to the report, the DNC demanded the technology company, Shadow, build a conversion tool just weeks before the caucuses to allow the DNC to have real-time access to the raw numbers because the national party feared the app would miscalculate results. The DNC’s data system used a different database format than Shadow’s reporting app, which caused multiple problems.

“Attempting to graft an entirely new software element onto the back-end reporting system at the proverbial eleventh hour is likely always going to be problematic, and it was ultimately the cause of a major problem on caucus night,” the report concludes. “Furthermore, the IDP was not involved in the development of this tool. The IDP simply permitted the DNC to direct the IDP’s vendor.”

The audit states the conversion tool had coding errors that spit out inaccurate numbers and caused confusion about the accuracy of the results, eventually leading to delays in reporting. But the state party’s app never malfunctioned nor was hacked, the report concludes.

“When the DNC’s database conversion tool failed to work correctly, it caused the DNC to wrongly stop the IDP from reporting its results, and the IDP’s entire planned reporting process was thrown into disarray,” the report says. “The DNC’s interjection was the catalyst for the resulting chaos in the boiler room and in the IDP’s attempts to manually collect and confirm caucus results by hand. If the DNC had not interjected itself into the results reporting process based on its erroneous data conversion, caucus night could conceivably have proceeded according to the IDP’s initial plan.”

The audit was conducted by Bonnie Campbell, the former attorney general of Iowa, and Faegre Drinker, an international law firm. The team conducted dozens of interviews with top IDP staffers, employees of Shadow and representatives from the Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg campaigns.

The DNC refused to participate in interviews by the lawyers who conducted the audit.

"Evaluating the nominating process always happens following the election so that DNC staff can remain focused on winning the general election, and this cycle that work helped contribute to President-Elect Biden's historic victory,” David Bergstein, a spokesman for the DNC, said in a statement.

The DNC said it offered to provide written answers so staff could remain focused on the work of the general election. The authors of the report declined that request, the DNC said.

Bergstein also defended the need for a “quality control check,” pointing to errors that were discovered in the initial caucus results. He also said Shadow was responsible for the technical issues.

Since 1972, Iowans have held the nation’s first presidential nominating contest, a position that has come under attack from Democrats who argue the state’s overwhelmingly white population is not representative of the country and therefore should not play an outsize role in picking the party’s nominee. Even before the botched caucuses, Democrats were calling on the party to reshuffle the nominating order and replace Iowa with more representative states.

Biden’s emergence as the Democratic nominee, after finishing in a dismal fourth place in the caucuses, served to ding the state’s reputation for picking presidents even more. Now, as the DNC and the IDP elect new leaders, the fight over the nominating calendar is likely to intensify in the coming months.

The audit also faults the IDP for waiting too long to develop the reporting application, which resulted in inadequate training and use. Many precinct chairs were unable to log into the app or faced other technical challenges, leading them to call-in their results.

The report notes the DNC contributed in part to the delay of the original app, saying the organization “aggressively interjected itself in all of the IDP’s technology endeavors,” primarily for cybersecurity reasons. The DNC was particularly worried about cybersecurity after foreign election interference in 2016.

But the report also blames the IDP for poor boiler room set-up and execution on caucus night, saying the party failed to train its volunteers on how to input data that was reported via phone and provide enough phone lines to handle the influx of calls after precinct chairs abandoned the application. Only 439 of the 1,765 precincts successfully submitted results on caucus night through the app.

The report says new requirements for caucus contests — passed by the DNC in order to improve transparency and accessibility, such as the mandatory reporting of the first and second alignments of caucusgoers — contributed to problems. In particular, the audit points to the difficulties the state party faced in increasing participation while avoiding any processes that were similar to primary voting because of New Hampshire’s insistence on being the first primary state in the nation.

“The DNC has certainly taken the position that there should no longer be caucuses in any state and has imposed requirements that make it even more difficult to carry out caucus,” the report concludes.

Bergstein, the DNC spokesperson, said the organization’s reforms were successful in increasing transparency and participation, and the DNC will go through another review process in the coming months.

“Every four years, the DNC looks back at what worked and what didn’t work and the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee will continue to evaluate all areas of our nominating process and make recommendations for any changes,” he said in a statement.

The state party and its leadership also failed to communicate effectively with the media, the report says, exacerbating the reporting problems. News organizations were given a clear indication that results would be out on caucus night — the delayed release of data simply created more chaos and confusion. your social media marketing partner
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 December 2020 12:50