Sanders, Buttigieg seek partial recanvass of Iowa caucus results

A recanvass would check the vote count against paper records to ensure it was reported accurately.

Bernie Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders Campaigns in New Hampshire [File: Mary Altaffer/The Associated Press]

The campaigns of Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have asked for a partial recanvass of the results of last week’s Iowa caucuses.

The recanvass would not be a recount, but instead a check of the vote count against paper records to ensure the counts were reported accurately.

The Sanders campaign has outlined 25 precincts and three satellite caucuses where it believes correcting faulty math could swing the delegate allocation in Sanders’ favour. Meanwhile Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, requested the party check the results in 66 precincts.

Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir, appearing on CNN, said on Sunday: “You can expect us to be asking the Iowa Democratic party for a recanvass of the discrepancies that we have identified and found for them…It’s been handled incompetently from our perspective.”

Both Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Sanders have claimed victory in the caucuses – Buttigieg, because he holds a razor-thin lead in the delegate count, which is the number of delegates from the state each candidate wins based on a weighted voting system, and Sanders because he has received the most total support overall. Following the primary season, the number of delegates won by each candidate across the country will determine the Democratic nominee for the general election.

On Sunday, the state party released updated results showing Buttigieg leading Sanders 13 delegates to 12, out of the state’s 41 national delegates. On Monday, the party said it was reviewing the justifications of the campaigns’ requests.

Some news agencies, including The Associated Press, have remained unable to declare a winner because they believe the results may not be fully accurate and are still subject to potential revision.

With a slim margin separating Buttigieg and Sanders, the slightest mathematical or reporting mistake could have a significant effect on the race.

In a statement on Monday, Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said the campaign does not expect the recanvass to change the results of the caucuses, but he also suggested the campaign may ask for a full recount in the future.

“Once the recanvass and a subsequent recount are completed in these precincts, we feel confident we will be awarded the extra national delegate our volunteers and grassroots donors earned,” he said.

The chaos and inconsistencies in the reporting have raised widespread doubts and prompted sharp criticism of the process from the candidates and party leaders.

Iowa is the first contest in the country in the path to selecting a Democratic nominee, and while the number of delegates from the state is relatively small, it is considered symbolically significant in building momentum for the rest of the race.

Uncertainty, bad math, errors

The potential recanvass would further extend a process already clouded by uncertainty and technical errors in Iowa.

An app used by party volunteers to report results and jammed phone lines set up for the same purpose resulted in the Iowa Democratic Party failing to release any results to the public until nearly a day after the event.

Party volunteers later found inconsistencies in the complicated math used by caucus volunteers to calculate the outcome of each individual caucus.

Iowa caucus results delayed due to ‘reporting issue’

To confirm the validity of the data they received, Iowa Democratic Party officials spent much of the week collecting paper records of the results and checking them against the numbers reported by volunteers. But issues continued to plague the party’s reporting, and the Iowa Democratic Party on Saturday said it was reviewing reported inconsistencies in 95 precincts.

The updated results released on Sunday largely left issues with the complicated math used to calculate results at the individual caucus sites, known as precincts, intact. This is because that math is recorded on an official record signed by the precinct leader, secretary and representatives of each campaign present, and the party’s leadership says altering the record to fix the math would potentially break the law.

“It is the legal voting record of the caucus, like a ballot. The seriousness of the record is made clear by the language at the bottom stating that any misrepresentation of the information is a crime,” Shayla McCormally, the party’s lawyer, said in the internal party email, according to AP. “Therefore, any changes or tampering with the sheet could result in a claim of election interference or misconduct.”

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said on CNN on Sunday that he is “mad as hell” about how the caucuses unfolded, and suggested the issues in Iowa could spell the end of caucuses altogether, which are technically party-run events rather than government-run elections.

“I think what we’re going to do at the end of this cycle … is have a further conversation about whether or not state parties should be running elections,” he said.

Perez also said the party will “absolutely” consider whether Iowa should lose its status as the first primary state in the nation.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies