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Iowa Caucus: A Fail of Epic Proportions

Technical difficulties caused confusion and chaos in Iowa – but a little due diligence could probably have prevented the fiasco.

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What happens when the app designed to report voting results fails? Tuesday’s Iowa’s caucus fiasco, of course. Democratic Party presidential candidates were running around, each claiming victory without even getting the results. Precincts trying to report in were on hold for hours – if they were even able to get through. The whole disaster is so sad it’s almost funny.

So, what happened?

No one really knows for sure, not even the app’s developers. At 10:26 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3, the Iowa Democratic Party issued a statement:

“We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results. This is simply a reporting issue, the app did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion. The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results.”

In other words, a complete fail from the onset?

There were reservations about the software even before the event. Sean Bagniewski, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Polk County – which happens to be the most populous – decided not to use the app at all and instructed his precinct chairs to phone in the results as they had done in the past. Good plan, but then no one could get through. Bagniewski, surely frustrated, had his executive director snap photos from her cell phone of the results and then drive them to the IDP headquarters in person. Still no luck as the director was turned away without an explanation.

“I don’t even know if they know what they don’t know,” Bagniewski said.

The problems were not just calculation errors. There were no test runs or training beforehand and people either couldn’t get the app downloaded or, if they were able to, couldn’t report the information needed. “When you have an app that you’re sending out to 1,700 people and many of them might be newer to apps and that kind of stuff, it might have been worth doing a couple months’ worth of testing,” Bagniewski said.

I Won! No, I Did!

If the disastrous chaotic confusion of the failed app wasn’t enough of a commotion, the Democratic candidates were quick to each declare victory for their camps. From Amy Klobuchar to Pete Buttigieg, they couldn’t wait to let everyone know that they had come out victorious, despite the absence of results.

Buttigieg’s response was bold. “Tonight, an improbable hope became an undeniable reality,” he declared while a campaign spokesperson posted screen shots of precincts where he had reportedly won.

Ben Halle jumped on board, tweeting out the supposed victory. “UPDATE: @PeteButtigieg won West Des Moines precinct 115. This is a rare flip from Romney to Clinton. Pete is winning in pivot counties and counties that are becoming more blue. #IACaucus.”

Not to be outdone, the Bernie Sanders’ campaign released a set of “internal caucus numbers” that claimed accounted for 40% of the state’s precincts. Jeff Weaver, a senior advisor of the campaign, said, “We believe firmly that our supporters worked too hard for too long to have the results of that work delayed.”

Joe Rospars, the chief strategist for Elizabeth Warren joined in the foray, admonishing candidates for jumping to conclusions. In a tweet, he said, “Any campaign saying they won or putting out incomplete numbers is contributing to the chaos and misinformation.” However, one minute before that post, he had written, “It’s a very close race among the top three candidates (Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg) and Biden came in a distant fourth.”

Even President Trump got in on the claims to victory, tweeting: “The Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster. Nothing works, just like they ran the Country. Remember the 5 Billion Dollar Obamacare Website, that should have cost 2% of that. The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is ‘Trump’.”


Kelli Ballard

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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