Report blames national Dems for role in Iowa caucus mess
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A new audit report blames the national Democratic Party’s involvement in the Iowa caucuses for problems that delayed the results for days at the beginning of the 2020 presidential nominating battle.
The report commissioned by the Iowa Democratic Party criticized the national party’s role in delaying development of mobile phone app used to collect data from caucus sites and in demanding a last-minute data conversion tool that failed on caucus night, according to the Des Moines Register. But the report released Saturday also said the state Democratic Party should have bolstered its back-up phone system for compiling results — which was overwhelmed on election night — after the rollout of the app was slow.
“Without the DNC’s intervention in that process, the IDP may have reported results in real-time as it intended,” the report said.
The Associated Press opted not to call a winner in the Feb. 3 Democratic caucuses because of lingering concerns about whether the results as reported by the party were fully accurate.
The report said the state party delayed signing a contract with the app developer for several months after the Democratic National Committee raised questions. That delay left Shadow Inc. with far less time to create and test the app, which was rolled out to users just two weeks before the caucuses.
In the weeks before the caucuses, the national party also demanded that the app developer provide real-time access to raw data, so that it could double-check the state party’s math. But the tool that was created to convert the data into a format that the national party could use produced errors that prompted the national party to halt the release of results on caucus night until the discrepancies were resolved.
Democratic National Committee officials, who didn’t participate in the audit report, defended their efforts to double-check the results.
“The need for the IDP to include a quality control check in their system was validated by numerous press reports which found ‘errors and inconsistencies’ in the initial caucus results,” spokesperson David Bergstein said. “The underlying technical problems were caused by errors from the IDP’s vendor.”
When local election leaders did get access to the app, they struggled with its complicated installation and log-in process. State party officials knew on the Friday before the caucuses that only about 400 of the more than 1,700 local precinct chairs had successfully downloaded and accessed the app.
“The IDP should have taken aggressive steps to scale up its telephone back-up reporting system at that time,” the report said.
State Democratic Party Chair Mark Smith said Saturday that the audit report prepared by former state and federal prosecutors in Iowa should help avoid problems in future caucuses, although some national party officials have suggested that all states should abandon caucuses in favor or primaries before the next election. Iowa’s caucuses have traditionally kicked off the presidential nominating process.
“In the interest of clarity and public reassurance, the IDP commissioned this self-critical report to help guide conversations as we move forward,” Smith said in a statement. The statement later went on to add, “The most important thing for us to do now is to heed these lessons, listen to each other’s ideas, and work together to move forward.”