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Iowa Democratic Party projects Pete Buttigieg the winner of the delegate race, with Bernie Sanders preparing a challenge

The Iowa Democratic Party on Sunday announced that Pete Buttigieg would likely receive 14 delegates to the national presidential nominating convention from the chaotic caucuses.
The Iowa Democratic Party on Sunday announced that Pete Buttigieg would likely receive 14 delegates to the national presidential nominating convention from the chaotic caucuses. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

The Iowa Democratic Party announced Sunday that Pete Buttigieg would probably receive 14 delegates to the national presidential nominating convention from last week’s chaotic caucuses, while Bernie Sanders would receive 12.

The announcement came from state party officials nearly a week after the Iowa caucuses ended in controversy amid vote-counting problems and questions about the technology used to report results from 1,765 precincts.

And the numbers may not be final. Late Sunday, Sanders adviser Jeff Weaver said the campaign will seek a partial recanvass — a process he said would put the senator from Vermont on top in the delegate count.

Sanders won the popular vote, netting support from about 6,000 more caucus-goers on the first expression of preferences, known as an alignment, than Buttigieg. But the delegate allocation is based on projected support for each candidate at the state convention, known as state delegate equivalents or SDEs, which is traditionally the metric used to declare a winner of the caucuses.

Speaking in Laconia, N.H., on Feb. 4, Former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg touted his lead in the Iowa caucuses, despite a delay in the caucus results. (Video: Reuters)

Both the senator and the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who are battling at the top of the polls in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, have declared victory in Iowa.

Top Democrats turn on each other after Iowa, threatening the party’s chances against Trump

Weaver said the campaign believes seven SDEs are at issue in the precincts they have identified, which is more than the 2.77 that separate the two Democrats.

“Cumulatively, those precincts represent far more state delegate equivalents than the difference between ourselves and Mayor Buttigieg at the moment,” Weaver said in an interview.

Chris Meagher, a spokesman for Buttigieg, said, “We’re focused on New Hampshire.”

The Iowa party also said that eight delegates would go to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and six would go to former vice president Joe Biden, who called the result in Iowa a “gut punch.”

The numbers released Sunday differ slightly from projections made by the Associated Press, which said Buttigieg would take 13 delegates to the Democratic National Conventionin Milwaukee in July, while Sanders would take 12. The AP also said it would not declare a winner in the contest, which was marred by reporting difficulties, delays in the release of results and mathematical irregularities.

The update from the state party reflected its review of 55 precincts, making up about 3 percent of the total 1,765. But the review involved only rectifying discrepancies between numbers reported on math worksheets completed by caucus leaders and publicly reported data. That left untouched errors tainting the actual worksheets, where volunteer leaders had entered complex calculations based on multiple counts of caucus-night preferences — and, in some cases, made mistakes.

An attorney for the state party said officials were not authorized to alter the worksheets because they represented legal documents, according to an email Troy Price, the state party chairman, sent to members of the state party’s central committee.

“It is the legal voting record of the caucus, like a ballot,” Shayla McCormally, the attorney, wrote in an advisory included in the email from Price. “The seriousness of the record is made clear by the language at the bottom stating that any misrepresentation of the information is a crime. Therefore, any changes or tampering with the sheet could result in a claim of election interference or misconduct.”

She added that any interference to rectify arithmetic errors would introduce “personal opinion” into the caucus process, which involves caucus-goers arranging themselves into different groupings and then realigning if certain candidates don’t achieve a baseline level of support.

An official with the state party, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly, confirmed the email and said a recanvass would be significant because it would probably grant new authority to alter the worksheets themselves.

On Thursday, Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called for a recanvass, while the state party said it was obliged to conduct one only if requested by a campaign. Meanwhile, state party officials said they would review precinct-by-precinct inconsistencies flagged to them by the campaigns ahead of the Monday deadline for a recanvass request.

The three campaigns that performed best in the state — Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren — each submitted specific precincts for the party to review. A state party official confirmed that no other campaign had raised questions about precinct numbers.

Initially, the deadline for a recanvass request was Friday, but the state party pushed it back amid reporting delays.

A recanvass involves a hand audit of the math worksheets and reporting forms completed on caucus night. It differs from a full recount, which would entail a hand count of each of the “presidential preference cards” completed by caucus-goers.

Iowa’s delegate selection plan spells out the process for requesting a recanvass. A request must include a “thorough description of the challenge,” as well as an explanation of the scope of the desired recanvass. It also must explain how the national delegate allocation would be altered as a result of the changes sought. The state party has 48 hours to respond to a request, and the cost of any recanvass is borne by the requesting campaign.

Sean Sullivan and Michael Scherer contributed to this report.