The top three candidates at the Iowa caucus, Elizabeth Warren (left), Bernie Sanders (center) and Pete Buttigieg (right). The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg won by a small margin over Senator Sanders. PUBLIC DOMAIN

Anya Marquardt is a freshman English major and journalism minor.   

The Iowa caucuses took place last Monday —  the first caucuses to take place in the 2020 election season. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, won by a slim margin. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders finished in a close second, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former vice president, Joe Biden. However, due to inconsistencies in data results because of a new technology-based application, the caucuses’ numbers were released much later than usual. The precinct reports were not released until Thursday afternoon, and the Associated Press is refusing to call a winner. Democratic candidates had until Friday, Feb. 7, to call for a recount, yet one has not been called. Now, campaign representatives aren’t sure if the Iowa caucuses will be holding as much prominence as it has in the past. 

The Iowa caucuses help determine the frontrunners in the polls. The Democratic winner of the Iowa caucuses has frequently gone on to become the Democratic nominee. Since 1972, nine primary seasons without a Democratic incumbent president running have occurred; out of those nine seasons, the winner of six went on to become the Democratic nominee. These facts clearly indicate how important these caucuses are, and I believe that these caucuses shouldn’t be meddled with or changed at all due to their obvious significance. 

The Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) stated at 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday night that inconsistencies were found in the caucuses’ result data. According to the IDP, this was a simple reporting issue caused by a small coding error in the new application called Shadow for the caucuses. Later on, however, reports made by cybersecurity analysts stated that the application had a lot of errors since it was rushed, which could have been prevented if the application was tested more. Because of the required paper documentation of the caucuses results, the data was able to be verified, although it took days to release all of the data. However, just the mere fact that inconsistencies, of any sort, were found in the caucuses can hurt the reliability and credibility of the results. What if paper documentation was omitted and not used for verification, who knows how much worse the aftermath could have been? We don’t know, but we can infer for sure that it would have taken more than 16 hours for results to start coming out. The IDP should have never made the call to use the new technology application on one of the most important voting days of the year for Democratic candidates.

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In a statement given to CNN, a top Warren aide stated, “With every passing minute that there is a delay, we worry that the process will lose credibility.” These caucuses are extremely important for Democrats to see where they are standing in the race, and it also can have a great influence on voters in November’s general election. I believe that the errors in the Iowa caucuses will be enough for the public to throw away the results entirely, and mark them as uncredible. The validity of the Democratic candidates are at risk if the caucus results aren’t credible. The IDP would be quite reckless to use what was proved to be a poorly tested application at such important caucuses.

Because of the long delay, the results of the caucuses were released on the same night as President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address. Since the early 20th century, this speech has been used mainly to rally support for the president’s agenda. The address always receives a lot of attention from the media, and the results from the Iowa caucuses will now most definitely be overshadowed by the reports about the address.

While I agree that the Iowa caucuses issue was handled very poorly, I do not think that this should ruin the Democratic Party’s credibility. The application was created specifically for the IDP to use so it should not reflect on other state parties. While it was not right for a poorly tested application to be used, other state parties shouldn’t suffer as a result, especially since this application won’t be used for their upcoming caucuses. 

Announcing results immediately after the primaries helps to maintain interest in the polls, and the 3-day delay of these results is only hurting the significance of the Iowa caucuses. Unfortunately for Buttigieg, his win in Iowa may not carry the same significance that other Iowa caucuses have given in the past, now that the State of the Union took place on the same night. On Tuesday, Feb. 11, heads will turn towards New Hampshire, where a primary will take place. Hopefully, we can expect a quicker set of results that aren’t plagued by inconsistencies in the following caucuses, as the entire Democratic party was not responsible for this incident, and the technology that caused this problem will not be used in any other states.

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1 comment

  1. It was a tie. Pete didn’t win. 564 to 562. Could it be any closer? Some of these points were determined by a coin flip. Really? So we learned that it is a tie. Great. Move on.

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