Iowa Democratic Party compounds its mistake by releasing partial election results

Iowa Democratic Party compounds its mistake by releasing partial election results
ABC News
Election '20

Iowa's long-awaited Democratic caucuses ended in a virtual catastrophe on Monday as errors in the state party's reporting process meant the results couldn't be aggregated, and no winner for the night could be declared. And on Tuesday evening, after observers spent the day trying to understand what went wrong, officials compounded the error by releasing an incomplete tally of the final results.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price said that while all the tallies of the caucuses were secured, they were only prepared to release results from 62 percent of precincts.

But it's not clear why, after a delay of nearly an entire day, they were preparing to release partial results. There's no reason to believe that the precincts that were reported are representative of the entire state, so there's very little that can be concluded about the results when they were released.

Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg apparently came in the lead in this limited set of the data, winning 26.9 percent of the delegates. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) won 25.1 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) won 18.3 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden won 15.6 percent — but again, all of this relies only on incomplete data. And compounding this is the inherent weirdness of caucuses, because Sanders won the highest total of the raw vote, according to the current data. All these oddities mean that pundits and other voters shouldn't be able to conclude much from the results just yet.

"Partial data seems worse than no data, particularly if we don’t know how representative the precincts are!" said MSNBC's Chris Hayes.

Nevertheless, despite the severe limitations on the information, observers started immediately drawing interpretations.

"The winner of Iowa is [Buttigieg adviser Lis Smith] who put her candidate 'everywhere' including at a Fox town hall just days before the vote," said the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, apparently assuming the partial data meant the mayor had won.

Meanwhile, others were starting to say that Biden's apparent weakness in the early numbers is a sign of doom for his candidacy.

As many have argued, the Iowa caucuses are so thoroughly idiosyncratic and oddly structured that it's a mistake to give them as much focus and attention as they consistently get. Monday's failure on the part of the Iowa Democratic Party only further exacerbated these problems by underscoring how unreliable the process is. And the Tuesday decision to release incomplete data further demonstrated that it's time for the state's undue influence to end.

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