Iowa Debacle: Dem Party Blames ‘Coding Issue’
DES MOINES, Iowa – The morning after a technical meltdown delayed the reporting of the Iowa caucus results – causing chaos in the political world — the Iowa Democratic Party blamed the debacle on a “coding issue” in its reporting app and pledged to release the caucus results starting late Tuesday afternoon.
The party — under the gun and facing the possibility that Iowa could lose its cherished half-century hold spot kicking off the presidential primary and caucus nominating calendar — stressed Tuesday morning that the debacle “did not impact the ability of precinct chairs to report data accurately.” They claimed to have now fixed the issue.
“We have every indication that our systems were secure and there was not a cybersecurity intrusion. In preparation for the caucuses, our systems were tested by independent cybersecurity consultants,” Iowa Democratic Party, or IDP, chairman Troy Price spotlighted in a long-awaited statement.
In a conference call with the presidential campaigns, Price later pledged that the party would release a “majority” of results at 5 p.m. ET Tuesday, Fox News has confirmed.
Hours after the presidential campaigns and reporters pleaded for information on the massive confusion, Price explained that “as precinct caucus results started coming in, the IDP ran them through an accuracy and quality check. It became clear that there were inconsistencies with the reports. The underlying cause of these inconsistencies was not immediately clear, and required investigation, which took time.”
“As this investigation unfolded, IDP staff activated pre-planned backup measures and entered data manually. This took longer than expected,” he continued.
Price said the party’s initial investigation determined “with certainty” that the data collected through the app was sound but that “it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed. The application’s reporting issue did not impact the ability of precinct chairs to report data accurately.”
The chairman said that because of mandated paper backups, “we have been able to verify that the data recorded in the app and used to calculate State Delegate Equivalents is valid and accurate. Precinct level results are still being reported to the IDP.”
“While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed.”
— Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News that the Iowa Democrats declined his department’s offer to help vet the app. But Wolf also stressed that the app was not hacked.
A similar mobile app used in Iowa reportedly is scheduled to be used by the Nevada Democratic Party for reporting of their caucus results later this month. Nevada’s caucuses on Feb. 22 are the third contest in the White House race following Iowa’s caucuses and New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, which will be held in one week.
The app is also linked to campaign veterans of 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s White House bid.
Shadow, a tech firm that describes itself as a group that creates “a permanent advantage for progressive campaigns and causes through technology,” is the company that created the Iowa Democratic Party’s app, according to The New York Times. The COO, CEO, CTO and a senior product manager at Shadow all worked for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, according to LinkedIn profiles.
In a series of tweets, Shadow on Tuesday apologized for the mess.
“We sincerely regret the delay in the reporting of the results of last night’s Iowa caucuses and the uncertainty it has caused to the candidates, their campaigns, and Democratic caucus-goers,” the company said, adding: “We will apply the lessons learned in the future, and have already corrected the underlying technology issue. We take these issues very seriously, and are committed to improving and evolving to support the Democratic Party’s goal of modernizing its election processes.”
While the political world waits for the results, the leading contenders for the nomination didn’t wait and instead pre-emptively declared strong finishes and moved on to New Hampshire.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign took aim at the pending results, questioning the veracity of the eventual final numbers. And Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign released its own incomplete numbers early Tuesday morning, which showed Sanders leading his rivals.
That move was followed a couple of hours later by the Pete Buttigieg campaign, which suggested the former South Bend, Ind., mayor was the winner.
Buttigieg – who needed a strong finish in Iowa to help propel his campaign – declared victory on Monday night.
“So we don’t know the results. But we know. By the time it’s all said and done, you have shocked the nation,” the candidate told his supporters. “Because, by all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of neighboring Minnesota was the first of the White House contenders to come out and tout her momentum coming out of Iowa.
“We are feeling good tonight,” she emphasized. “We know one thing, we are punching above our weight.”
“All I can say is we are here and we are strong,” stressed Klobuchar – who needed a strong finish in Iowa to boost her bid for the Democratic nomination. “We are now ready to head to New Hampshire.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts started her speech by noting “it’s too close to call.”
But the progressive senator who’s seen her poll numbers decline the past couple of months declared that “tonight we are one step closer to winning the fight for the America we imagine is possible.”
And the senator said that “we are built for the long haul.”
Biden emphasized in his speech that “it looks like it’s going to be a long night but I’m feeling good!”
“From our indication, it’s going to be close and we’re going to walk out of here with our share of delegates. We don’t know exactly what it is yet, but we feel good about where we are. So it’s on to New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and beyond. We’re in this for the long haul,” the former vice president stressed.
But Biden raised concerns with the pending results, saying “the Iowa Democratic Party’s working to get this result, to get them straight, and I want to make sure they’re very careful in their deliberations.”
Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield went a step further, warning on Twitter that “the integrity of the process is critical, and there were flaws in the reporting systems tonight that should raise serious concerns for voters.”
Sanders – considered to be in the lead in Iowa according to the final public opinion surveys – told supporters that “I imagine, I have a strong feeling at some point the results will be announced and when those results are announced, I have a good feeling we’re going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa.”
A couple of hours after the populist senator from Vermont spoke, his campaign released internal reporting numbers which they said represented the results from nearly 40 percent of the caucus precincts in Iowa.
“We recognize that this does not replace the full data from the Iowa Democratic Party, but we believe firmly that our supporters worked too hard for too long to have the results of that work delayed,” senior adviser Jeff Weaver said.
The Sanders campaign figures show the populist senator from Vermont at 30 percent, Buttigieg at 25 percent, Warren at 21 percent, Biden at 12 percent and Klobuchar at 11 percent.
A couple of hours later, the Buttigieg campaign also released incomplete internal numbers compiled from reporting by the campaign’s precinct captains from across the state.
The numbers suggested Buttigieg winning approximately 25 percent of the final alignment raw vote, and roughly 28 percent of the traditional state delegate equivalent totals.
“Our precinct captains reported full caucus results in 1,259 precincts– this represents approximately 75 percent of the total precincts and just over 150,000 total votes. We have partial results for another 42 precincts,” the campaign noted.
“We believe firmly that our supporters worked too hard for too long to have the results of that work delayed.”
— Bernie Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver
But Mo Elleithee – the founding executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service and a Fox News contributor – scolded the campaigns.
“If I were all of the campaigns, I’d be privately angry and publicly quiet. Let the process play out so you don’t have another situation like the Republicans had in 2012 where they got it wrong and had to correct it two weeks later. Let the process play out — announce the winner – and then start pouncing on the party to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But for now, all this public sniping isn’t helping,” he emphasized.
Elleithee, a senior spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign who later served as communications director for the Democratic National Committee, argued that “nobody can declare victory. There’s nothing to declare. Every just gets to wait until tomorrow.”
The chaotic situation brought back memories of the 2012 Republican caucuses, when initial results pointed to a narrow victory by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. It was ultimately revealed that former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was the winner.
Elleithee noted that “the ultimate winners – the people who can claim momentum – are all going to miss out on the opportunity to declare momentum in the moment, so they’re going to have to find other ways to manufacturer it. There’s no winner. There’s just waiting.”
As the utter mess in reporting the results made national headlines, political pundits started to write the Iowa caucuses’ obituary, predicting the state would lose it’s role leading off the nominating calendar.
Jeff Link, a longtime Iowa based Democratic consultant and presidential campaign veteran, told Fox News “I think we still have time to get this right today. It’s more important to be right than to rush out numbers that you later have to correct. But it’s not ideal.”
Longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley – contrasting the first-in-the-nation presidential primary with Iowa’s caucuses – told Fox News that the “NH’s Primary is conducted by local elected officials overseen by the Secretary of State. NH uses paper ballots and has run smoothly for 100 years. We expect a great turnout in the Democratic Primary by Democrats, Independents and those who register on Primary Day.”
The “we expect a great turnout” line also appears to be a slight at Iowa – where the state party said Monday night they were on track to match the 2016 Democratic caucuses turnout, which was significantly lower than the historic high of 2008.
Author: Paul Steinhauser