Of crashing polls and caucuses: An update from Iowa

If you’re looking for some quality, on-the-ground coverage of the ongoing political messes in Iowa, be sure to check out the coverage from our new sister publication, the Iowa Capital-Dispatch. Over the last few days, editor Kathie Obradovich (former opinion editor of the Des Moines Register) and reporter Linh Ta have been working hard to stay on top of things in the Hawkeye state. Here’s Ta’s latest on last night’s breakdown of the caucus system:

A television monitor shows a statement from the Joe Biden campaign raising concerns about the delay in caucus results. (Iowa Capital Dispatch photo)

Democrats’ caucus results delay raises questions, criticism

The Iowa Democratic Party’s delay in reporting caucus results sparked more criticism of the state’s first-in-the-nation status Monday.

While the winner of the Iowa caucus isn’t normally finalized until late in the evening of the event, it’s typical for results to be released throughout the night, giving some indication of front-runners and losers.

The Iowa Democratic Party has still failed to release any numbers by 9 a.m. Tuesday, resulting in angst on social media, criticisms from President Donald Trump’s campaign, and even some harsh words from the Democratic presidential candidates.

In an update to the public Tuesday morning, the Iowa Democratic Party released a statement saying there were inconsistencies with caucus reports Monday evening, resulting in an investigation that delayed the release of public numbers.

For the first time this year, precincts used apps to report the results from their caucuses. While the data the app collected was accurate, only partial numbers were being reported due to a coding error, according to the news release.

“As this investigation unfolded, IDP staff activated pre-planned backup measures and entered data manually. This took longer than expected,” according to the news release.

Because paper documentation of the results is required as well from precincts, the party was able to verify the data from the app with the submitted papers, according to the news release. Results from the caucuses are expected to be released on Tuesday.

Dana Remus, general counsel for former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, said in a letter to the state party: “I write on behalf of the Biden for President Campaign regarding the considerable flaws in tonight’s Iowa caucus reporting system … The app that was intended to relay caucus results to the party failed; the party’s back-up telephonic reporting system likewise has failed.”

Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price read a statement during a media call just after 1 a.m. He said the party was manually reviewing results from all precincts and he expected to have results later on Tuesday.  “The integrity of our process and the results have and always will be our top priority,” he said. He reiterated previous party statements that the problem was a “reporting issue, not a hack or an intrusion.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Meanwhile, if you’re still wondering about the seemingly bizarre demise of the final Iowa poll, here’s part of Obradovich’s take:

The Des Moines Register announced it would not publish its much-anticipated Iowa Poll on Feb. 2, 2020, after a polling error. (Photo by Kathie Obradovich/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Lack of Iowa Poll is disappointing but not a conspiracy

I was as shocked as anyone in the political world when the Register announced Saturday night that it would not release its much-anticipated final poll before the Iowa caucuses.  I also felt a sharp sense of grief, almost like I was learning about a sudden death in the family.

Most of that came from empathy for my former colleagues at the Register and for pollster Ann Selzer, who must have been devastated.  The Register reported that the decision was made to cancel publication of the poll after Pete Buttigieg’s campaign complained that his name had been left off the list of candidates by an interviewer during at least one survey call.

CNN, the Register’s partner for the poll, did an internal investigation that found that an operator had enlarged the font on his or her computer screen. That cut off Buttigieg’s name, which was at the end of the list, the Register reported.  The list of candidates is randomized so the names are in a different order with each interview. The Register reported that the polling partners were unable to determine whether this error happened more than once to Buttigieg or other candidates.

The Register, CNN and Selzer made an excruciatingly hard decision, but it was the right one.  They could not be sure of the integrity of the poll and integrity was the only thing that mattered.

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