Missing precinct scrambles to report Sanders won
Votes from one precinct in Iowa were still missing Tuesday morning, and Democrats from that neighborhood were scrambling to find party officials so that they could report their tally: Bernie Sanders won by 2 delegates.
But the voters of Des Moines precinct No. 42 couldn’t find anyone at Iowa Democratic Party to take their phone calls. The party’s caucus hotline was no longer working. The party headquarters was locked.
“It’s important considering how close the race is. We need to be sure everyone has our accurate count,” said Jill Joseph, a rank-and-file Democratic voter who backed Sanders in at No. 42 Monday night.
Sanders won seven delegates, Clinton won five, Joseph told The Des Moines Register.
It quickly raised questions about whether Sanders had won the popular vote in Iowa. Sanders backers called for Iowa Democratic Party officials to release the raw vote totals.
The state party's website has now been updated to reflect that Sanders won 58.3 percent and Clinton won 41.7 percent in precinct No. 42.
Party officials had worked into the early morning Tuesday trying to account for results from a handful of tardy precincts in the extremely close presidential caucus race between Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
But they announced that Clinton had eked out a slim victory, based on results from 1,682 of 1,683 precincts, a statement emailed at 2:30 a.m. said.
Team Clinton quickly embraced that news, and flatly stated that nothing could change it.
Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire in the 2:30 a.m. statement said: "Hillary Clinton has been awarded 699.57 state delegate equivalents, Bernie Sanders has been awarded 695.49 state delegate equivalents, Martin O’Malley has been awarded 7.68 state delegate equivalents and uncommitted has been awarded .46 state delegate equivalents. We still have outstanding results in one precinct - Des Moines 42 - which is worth 2.28 state delegate equivalents. We will report that final precinct when we have confirmed those results with the chair."
Clinton's Iowa campaign director Matt Paul said in a statement at 2:35 a.m.: "Hillary Clinton has won the Iowa Caucus. After thorough reporting – and analysis – of results, there is no uncertainty and Secretary Clinton has clearly won the most national and state delegates. Statistically, there is no outstanding information that could change the results and no way that Senator Sanders can overcome Secretary Clinton's advantage."
McGuire could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday morning.
The scene at precinct No. 42 was "chaos" Monday night, Joseph told the Register. None of the 400-plus Democrats wanted wanted to be in charge of the caucus, so a man who had shown up just to vote reluctantly stepped forward. As Joseph was leaving with the untrained caucus chairman, who is one of her neighbors, "I looked at him and said, 'Who called in the results of our caucus?' And we didn't know."
The impromptu chairman of Des Moines No. 42 told the Register when he realized his precinct had the key to the final missing votes, he took Tuesday off work and was driving home to get the paperwork. But he didn't know who was logging the tallies.
With No. 42's results, Clinton's excruciatingly close lead narrowed further, and voters there called into question whether Sanders may have actually won.
Late on caucus night, the party had reached out to the Clinton and Sanders campaigns to ask for their help in tracking down missing results. Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director Ben Foecke sent an email to both campaigns with a spreadsheet of contacts for temporary caucus chairs. The campaigns were directing those people to dial into a hotline to report their results.
The Sanders campaign was calling temporary caucus chairs to track down results as well as checking with campaign volunteers early Tuesday.
A representative of Clinton's campaign said early Tuesday that the campaign was not involved in tracking down temporary caucus chairs.
At Democratic caucuses, a temporary caucus chair is usually selected before caucus night to run a precinct caucus, where the same person is often elected as the permanent caucus chair. That person is responsible for running the caucus and reporting results back to the party.
Sanders campaign officials said they were notified early Sunday morning that 137 chairs were still not identified. But in its statement Tuesday morning, the state party said the missing precincts did have chairs assigned to them.
"These outstanding precincts have chairs who we are in the process of contacting to get their results," the statement said. "It is inaccurate to report that these precincts did not have chairs."
The complications came four years after an embarrassing mix-up of results in the Republican Iowa caucuses. The state party at first declared former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the winner by eight votes on caucus night, but former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was later declared the official winner by 34 votes after a certified count.
Pete D'Alessandro, Sanders' Iowa campaign coordinator, said he doesn't question the integrity of the state party. But he said the last-minute scramble probably meant many caucus chairs weren't properly trained on how to report their voting results.
"You’re always worried. In a close race, you want to get it right," D'Alessandro said. "You want to get it right both as a campaign. But because the whole world is watching us, we want to get it right as a caucus."