An Iowa Democratic Caucus Review

Conflicts of Interest, Incompetence & Corruption

While things still seem to be unresolved in Iowa, I have a little list of things I’d like to review with some questions at the end.

Possibly everyone has heard the story by now about how the designers of the app that started all the troubles in Iowa had some problematic ties….

#1 – ACRONYM (co-founded by Tara McGowan, who is married to Michael Halle, a senior strategist with the Buttigieg campaign) is invested in, related to, and shares office space with SHADOW (launched by former staffers of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign). SHADOW developed the app that started the meltdown, and “A person with knowledge of the companies culture, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, shared communications showing that top officials a the company regularly expressed hostility to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s supporters.” [1]

Everyone knows there is a lot of incest in politics so maybe it’s just to be expected and isn’t anything nefarious. But it does appear to be some conflicts of interests here (which might also be expected at this point). The fact that they went with a company named SHADOW isn’t particularly a good look considering how things played out. At least the person behind SHADOW wasn’t named Snidely Whiplash.

So maybe we can write the whole app issue off to incompetence and a little conflict of interest on the level to be expected in politics.

#2 – Rather than waiting to release results when all of them were ready to be released, the Iowa Democratic Party decided to release the results piecemeal over a period of days, choosing to release results of some caucuses before others. The order they released them influenced the narrative that Pete may have won the delegate count (this reinforced the narrative that Pete had started the night before when he declared victory with almost no results reported). The results of caucuses that had been conducted early and had turned their results in FIRST—and which had overwhelmingly favored Bernie—were released LAST. Had they released them in a different order, a different narrative would have been created.

This is somewhat suspicious. I think if they knew this was going to take a while, they should have waited to release everything all at once when they were done so as not to create a potentially false narrative in the media that might play out for days.

#3 – On Wednesday afternoon, the Des Moines Register reported that the Iowa Democratic Party had misreported results on three occasions. In each case supporters and delegates for Sanders were given to other candidates and the results had to be corrected. [2]

Honest mistakes? Maybe. But it is interesting that on all these occasions the mistakes went against Bernie.

#4 – Later the NYT reported that the results were “riddled” with over 100 errors. [3]

This one may just be the result of what might be expected from a complicated caucus system.

Considering this was the first time in the 48 year history of the Iowa caucus system that the numbers for the various candidate supporters in both the first and final alignments were reported—and was therefore the first time that outsiders could double-check—it might have exposed the possibility that these kinds of errors may have gone unnoticed throughout its entire history.

There have been plenty of times the results from Iowa have made a big difference in someone’s campaign over the years. So past errors in Iowa may have made Jimmy Carter president in 1976, Obama president in 2008, and Clinton the nominee in 2016. Maybe Clinton would have been president for 8 years instead of Obama, or Sanders the president now rather than Trump. I guess we will never know.

#5 – As more results were released, Bernie’s popular support numbers kept growing and Pete’s margin over Bernie in State Delegate Equivalents (SDEs) kept shrinking. By the time 71% of the results were reporting, his lead had been reduced to 1.6%. With 92% reporting, it was reduced to 0.9%. With 96% reporting, it had been reduced to 0.7%. With 97% reporting, it was reduced to 0.1%. It appeared that what we were still waiting on was a satellite caucus (SC100) that would likely strongly favor Bernie, and that Bernie was about to take the lead once those numbers were reported. At that point the rate the results were being reported came to a halt and hours passed.

I was checking in on the results in real time, especially as it grew closer to the end. It was getting late, but I thought at the rate the results were being updated it wouldn’t take much longer. After an hour or two with no new results, I started to assume that maybe they stopped because it was late, they were tired, they could see that Bernie was about to overtake Pete which would change the narrative, and they would rather finish it off after a good night’s sleep when they were fresh to deal with the fallout in the morning.

So I went to bed myself and checked in the next morning around 9 am to see there hadn’t been any change. Pete still held the slimmest of leads with a margin of 0.1% with 97% reporting.

The fact that the reporting had come to a dead stop when it seemed Pete’s firewall was so close to collapsing seemed a bit suspicious to me.

#6 – After several hours of delay, DNC chair Tom Perez tweeted “Enough is enough,” and called for a recanvassing of all precincts. [4] The Iowa Democratic Party did eventually continue releasing results all the way to 100%. The results were finally reported for SC100 showing Bernie won there with 60.8% while Pete came in fourth with 8%. For some reason this did NOT seem to be reflected in the SDE totals, which still show Pete with a margin over Sanders in SDE’s at 0.1%, which was the same as it was before SC100’s results were reported and when 97% was reporting.

This also seems highly suspicious to me.

Later I was watching Ryan Grim from The Intercept appearing on The Hill’s Rising where he reveled this bit of news:

“There was reporting from DNC sources that said that the reason that Tom Perez made that announcement is because he saw Bernie Sanders surging in the satellite caucuses, and that bothered him.” [5]

Excuse me?

If this reporting is accurate, it looks just exactly like they stepped in to stop the process when they saw Sanders was about to win.

That sounds like corruption to me.

Ryan Grim also said, “It’s almost like they are baiting Bernie Sanders supporters to complain about the process.”

Considering everything I listed above, I’d say he’s right about that.

At this point I don’t know if they will recanvas or not. Even though Pete started complaining when it looked like Bernie was about to take the lead, I don’t know that that would be the same as making a formal request which seems to be what is required. Possibly he is no longer interested considering the results are still showing him in the lead by 0.1% in SDEs. But Perez now says he was actually only requesting a “surgical” recanvassing of isolated precincts (but are just looking at isolated precincts a good idea, if we recall Gore v. Bush)?

I have some questions to say the least:

Why did they make the decision to release the results the way they did, piecemeal and in that order, saving earlier reported results until last?  

Did SC100 and whatever else was left to be reported when they were stalled at 97% reporting have ZERO effect on the SDEs? And why did they stop and Perez and Pete express concern, if it wasn’t going to have any?

Will they try to sort out all the errors reported? Will it get into a debate regarding how the rules are interpreted? Will any of this or a “surgical” recanvassing cause either big or small changes in the results? Will anyone be able to trust the results or trust Perez with recanvassing?

This whole thing has been TOTALLY botched, possibly beyond any repair. AP seemed to be the most responsible news source reporting about this when they said because of all the issues, there’s no way to declare a winner.

“The Associated Press calls a race when there is a clear indication of a winner. Because of a tight margin between former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders and the irregularities in this year’s caucus process, it is not possible to determine a winner at this point,” [6]

Russia can save it’s money this year. The Democratic Party seems perfectly capable of undermining confidence in the system by itself.

Tom Perez should step down. 

1:https://theintercept.com/2020/02/04/iowa-caucus-app-shadow-acronym

2:https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2020/02/05/iowa-democratic-party-reports-iowa-caucus-results-with-errors/4672474002/

3:https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/elections-2020/iowa-caucus-results-riddled-with-errors-and-inconsistencies/ar-BBZIMYd

4:https://kadn.com/iowa-dems-release-100-percent-of-caucus-vote-totals-showing-buttigieg-ahead-amid-calls-for-recanvass/

5:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQ2mtzzVxHE&t=169s

6:https://apnews.com/4f9044fe46f551d397d48dd8ca3d58db

Trump Wins Democrat Iowa Caucuses – The People Lose

What a muddled mess the Iowa addlepated and antiquated caucus system is!!!

I’ve just been trying to look into the details of how it works to understand how someone can win the popular vote there and still not win the largest number of delegates.

It seems the reason is a combination of a convoluted process of calculations on different levels.

First you have what happens at the caucus itself.

People attending a caucus show who they support by physically gathering together with others there who support the same candidate for what’s called the “first alignment.” Then the number of people supporting each candidate is counted to determine which candidate is “viable.” In order to be viable, a candidate must have at least 15% of the number of people attending that caucus.  If a candidate isn’t viable, then that candidate’s supporters have a few options….

They can realign with one of the other viable candidates, they can negotiate with others supporting nonviable candidates to try to make one of the other nonviable candidates viable by creating new alignments, or they can stop participating by staying where they are or going home.

While people supporting nonviable candidates can realign, people supporting viable candidates can’t, so only nonviable candidates are up for grabs.

Only viable candidates will receive any delegates.

When everyone is finished negotiating and realigning, another count is made to record the “final alignment.”

To determine the number of delegates each viable candidate at that caucus will receive, you take the number of the candidate’s supporters times the number of preassigned delegates for that particular caucus. Then you divide that result by the number of people attending the caucus. Fractions 50% and over get rounded up and fractions below get rounded down.

Depending on the specific circumstances, a viable candidate who has the greatest number of people aligned with them in both the first and final alignments could still end up with the same number of delegates as another viable candidate who had the least. For example, if the math result is 2.48 for one candidate and 1.52 for another, they both get 2 delegates.

So a candidate could start out as nonviable after the first alignment at a specific caucus, win over enough people supporting other nonviable candidates to become barely viable by the final alignment, and still end up with the same number of delegates as the candidate who had the largest number of supporters aligned with them in both the first and final alignments.

Now that part might be easier to understand than what comes next regarding the “delegates,” and while it can explain why a candidate who received the largest number of votes might receive the same number of “delegates,” it doesn’t explain why they might end up with fewer.

There seems to be more than one type of “delegate” at play….

County Delegates: Each county gets to determine how many delegates they will have at their convention (out of the 99 county conventions across the state). So even if two counties have the same size population, they can have a different number of delegates showing up at their respective conventions. Each individual precinct caucus in each county gets a preset number of delegates to select to send to their county convention based on the total they want to have.

State Delegates: Each county has a preset number of delegates they can send to the state convention. This number is determined by averaging the number of votes that its attendees cast for Democratic nominees in the most recent gubernatorial and presidential races.

State Delegate Equivalents: To determine this you convert the individual precinct results to the number of county delegates to an estimate of the number of state convention delegates to get the answer. So ten delegates from a precinct caucus could end up as a faction of one state delegate (0.83 of a state delegate, for example). Then that number is divided by the percentage for each candidate, which may likely result in a fraction of a fraction. So all the delegates coming out of a particular precinct caucus for a particular viable candidate may result in a State Delegate Equivalent of 0.23. Add all these up for all the caucus locations and you get the State Delegate Equivalent for each candidate.

There must be some example of how with all this realigning; rounding up and down; dealing with fractions, percentages, averages, and so on to sort out the delegates; etc. somehow results in the candidate with the most support ending up with fewer delegates than someone with less support. I honestly don’t have the energy to try to figure out how it happens by running different scenarios until I can provide one to demonstrate how this might work (maybe Yang could help here).

I know there is at least one other thing that I’ve skipped over that could provide at least part of the explanation but I don’t think could be responsible for all of it. That is: the coin tosses when supporter counts are tied. Yes, that’s a real thing. Reports are that this happened in several precincts on Monday night. In one case of a three-way tie, names were drawn out of a hat!

Regardless, now we get to…

National Convention Delegates: Based on the State Delegate Equivalents, the delegates are allotted proportionately to the 41 pledged delegates Iowa has to go to the National Convention. The 41 delegates from Iowa are about 1% of the total of all national delegates. So what each candidate was fighting for in Iowa was to see who might end up with the largest fraction of 1%.

In other words, the results from Iowa are practically irrelevant aside from the fact they are the first state to have some results, as well as whatever PR value might be gained from that to leverage into future contests.

It’s said that you can have three winners coming out of Iowa: the winner of the first alignment votes, the winner of the final alignment votes, and the winner of the State Delegate Equivalents (which is the one most featured despite being practically irrelevant).

But, as a result of the mess that has resulted from the app failure, the situation regarding who really “won” has become even more problematic.

When it first became evident that it was going to be at least a day before we got any results, Pete Buttigieg declared victory. Indications at the time were that he may have done well, possibly placing first or second, but declaring victory gained him almost the same amount of attention and PR as he might have received had the final results shown him to be the clear winner. The next day when only 62 percent of precincts were reporting, it did show him very slightly ahead of Sanders with the largest percentage of State Delegate Equivalents, with Sanders leading in the popular vote (in both the first and second alignments). As of this writing, there is still only 71% reporting with Buttigieg holding a 1.6% lead over Sanders, and with Sanders still ahead in the popular vote in both alignments.

Of the all the candidates Buttigieg still seems to be getting the best PR from the mainstream media out of Iowa. His name is the one featured most in the headlines (e.g.: “Buttigieg Has The Lead In Iowa”). Watching Sky News last night I saw a report presenting the news as if the results were final and Buttigieg had won. There was no mention at all that the results weren’t all in yet, or anything about the popular vote.

The continuing delay has resulted in any further coverage getting put on the back burner with news about the State of the Union and the Senate impeachment process burying it as we move on to other things. CNN’s website had the ongoing results from Iowa prominently displayed on their home page since Monday, but it’s gone from there now.  Maybe it will return whenever Iowa reports any new results, but right now I’m wondering how long that might be, and how long until we see the final results. By the time we do, most people may have moved on and been left with the impression that Buttigieg won.

Maybe when all the results are in we’ll see that Buttigieg deserved all the attention he’s received, and maybe it will show something else. We’ll just have to wait.

But just by looking at the results we have so far, it appears: Buttigieg’s support was significantly boosted in the final caucus alignment by supporters of nonviable candidates from the first alignment, that he didn’t have nearly as many committed supporters coming into the caucuses as Sanders had, and that somewhere lost in the math is how he’s managed to currently place barely ahead of Sanders in State Delegate Equivalents.

If these results hold, this becomes just another example of how real democracy is undermined by the system we have in place. It also becomes yet another argument against caucuses that can be added to its other problematic aspects–that I didn’t even address above–which have to do with the barriers of even participating in a caucus the first place.

In many of the most important respects: Trump won the Iowa Democratic Caucuses and the People lost.

 

Iowa’s Attempt To Step Into The 21st Century Fails Dramatically

Trump Wins Democratic Caucus – Pete Buttigieg Declares Victory

In an attempt to bring its quaint and venerable caucus system into the 21st Century by using newfangled “smartphones” (a “mobile phone” that performs many of the functions of a “computer”) with “apps” (modern lingo for “applications”) designed to report results, The Iowa Democratic Party ran into a snag last night with the “app” and had to resort to its backup system involving paper.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price told reporters, “It’s just going to take a little more time than we hoped to report the results. Stagecoaches are continuing to arrive from all across the state, and we think we’ll be able to give you at least 50% of results by 5:00 today.” “We wanted to get at least some results out there,” he said. Asked when he anticipated the final results to be reported he said, “Local party officials are doing their best to get their information to us.  I think we can promise a full accounting by Spring when the snow melts sufficiently for the roads to clear in the more mountainous regions of the state.”

Dr. Snidely Nefarious Whiplash–executive director for the DC-based tech start-up SHADOW who designed the “app”–could not be reached for comment.    

Meanwhile Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg–not content to wait for the final results–declared himself the winner. “Whoever defeats Donald Trump will have to be able to create their own reality as well as he does. I’m hoping to show I’m the best candidate to do that,” he said.

Insiders say that the real winner of the Democratic caucus in Iowa last night was Donald Trump.