The Iowa Democratic Party on Wednesday said it was willing to conduct a partial recanvass of its caucuses, acceding to requests from Sanders and Buttigieg, both of whom continue to claim victory in the first-in-the-nation contest, which descended into chaos as a result of a glitch in reporting results.
The campaigns, once they receive further details on the process Friday, will have 24 hours to decide whether to move forward with the recanvass, for which they would foot the bill. If the candidates give the go-ahead, the process is expected to begin Sunday and last for two days. It would involve a hand audit of the math worksheets and reporting forms completed by volunteer caucus leaders — checking their reported totals against publicly released data.
State party leaders called a possible recanvass a “first step” in what could turn into a recount, an acknowledgment that the turmoil in Iowa may continue even as the nominating contest whirls into other states. The caucuses were marred by a technology breakdown that delayed results and put a bright spotlight on mathematical irregularities in the numbers bled out by the state party in the days that followed.
The announcement from the state party came a day after the Vermont senator notched a victory in New Hampshire’s primary, with Buttigieg and Klobuchar nipping at his heels. And yet a recanvass of the 143 precincts queried by the two candidates is unlikely to settle the dispute in Iowa, which remains muddied even as the contest heads west. Nevada is facing its own uncertainty about how to conduct its caucuses after it scrapped mobile technology similar to the software that failed in Iowa.
Iowa Democrats, who are supposed to certify their results by Feb. 29, are already forecasting that their work may not end with a recanvass.
That’s because the process would not authorize party officials to correct even glaring mistakes on math worksheets completed by volunteer caucus leaders at more than 1,750 sites across the state. It only allows them to rectify discrepancies between figures on the worksheets and publicly released numbers, according to an advisory from the state party’s lawyer, Shayla McCormally.
“Any judgment of math miscalculations would insert personal opinion into the process by individuals not at the caucus and could change the agreed upon results,” she wrote in the advisory, which was circulated to members of the state party’s central committee.
The worksheets, she wrote, represent the “legal voting record of the caucus, like a ballot.”
“If campaigns want further recourse they will need to work all of the way through the process to a Recount where the Presidential Preference Cards are opened and counted,” she added.
Troy Price, the state party’s chairman, seemed to acknowledge the likelihood of a recount in comments to reporters Monday, when he said, “The first step is a recanvass,” adding, “A recount can be requested.”
He also reiterated his apology for the disarray, which has caused the Associated Press to refrain from calling the race. The standard tradition used to name a winner — projected delegates to the state convention, or state delegate equivalents — favored Buttigieg, according to figures released by the state party.
But Sanders, claiming an advantage of roughly 6,000 in the popular vote, contested those figures. And in his campaign’s filing with the state party, he argued that discrepancies were consequential enough to shift one projected delegate to the national party’s summer convention from Buttigieg’s column to his own.
The state party had predicted that the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., would take 14 national delegates out of Iowa, while the Vermont senator would take 12.
Sanders queried 25 traditional precincts, in addition to three satellite caucuses, alternative locations designed for Spanish speakers, night workers and others who have trouble attending a traditional caucus.
Buttigieg, in response to the move by Sanders and in a bid to hold on to his delegate lead, queried 66 traditional precincts, as well as all in-state satellite caucuses.
Iowa sends just 41 delegates to the national convention, accounting for 1 percent of the total delegate pool. Twenty-four delegates were at stake in Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire.