But overseas — where for the first time Iowa Democrats ran three satellite caucuses, in Glasgow, Scotland; Paris; and Tbilisi, Georgia — the proceedings seemed to go off without a hitch. Caucus overseers reported the results the old-fashioned way: by phone.
“I’m grateful that we didn’t use the app,” said Colyn Burbank, a Des Moines native who hosted a caucus of 19 people in his Glasgow home Monday night. Burbank said caucus volunteers overseas were told early on not to use the app because of “security concerns.” He FaceTimed the results in.
Some volunteers in Iowa encountered long hold times trying to call in their results, but the overseas outposts, calling at an earlier hour, did not experience that issue. “It was easy,” Burbank said.
After Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) drew the largest number of caucusers, Burbank and his new Iowan acquaintances headed to the pub.
In Tbilisi, representatives of the Hawkeye State gathered to caucus in the Caucasus. Joshua Kucera, a freelance journalist based in Georgia’s capital, wrote in the Nation of his decision to apply to host a caucus overseas.
“I have one other Iowan friend here in Tbilisi, and when our site was approved, we set about trying to find other Iowans to take part. We posted in the expat Facebook groups and contacted the U.S. Embassy and Peace Corps here to see if they had any Iowans. In the end, we found … one,” he wrote.
On caucus day, instead of using the app, Kucera told The Washington Post that he “phoned in the results the old-fashioned way, no problems.”
He posted on Twitter that the process had been “conducted successfully.” (With a picture of an Iowan meal, pizza and ranch dressing to prove it.)
The Tbilisi caucus was conducted successfully, over a traditional Iowan meal of pizza and ranch dressing – accompanied by Georgian wine. The results will be reported along with the rest of the results after the caucuses in Iowa take place. pic.twitter.com/SraYlfxAUq— Joshua Kucera (@joshuakucera) February 3, 2020
University of Iowa student Emily Hagedorn organized a caucus in Paris, where she is studying abroad, according to France24. As a young voter, she didn’t want to miss her first chance to participate.
While the results were dispatched without a problem, CNN reported that the caucus wasn’t all smooth sailing, because of some confusion over when it started: 8 p.m. local time. But eventually it proceeded, with the largest number of attendees caucusing for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Despite the relative lack of glitches, Iowans abroad expressed dismay over both the delayed results and the process of caucusing.
“It almost feels like medieval-level,” said Brooke Labagh, a massage therapist living in Dundee, Scotland, who hails from Fairfield, Iowa, and attended Burbank’s caucus in Glasgow. “It seems really funny we are doing this when we could all be voting with our phones,” added Labagh, who caucused for Andrew Yang.
Glasgow-based Burbank, who is in school for a master’s in social work, said he was disappointed that the technological glitch had become the story of the night.
“It takes away the attention from the volunteers who did really good work,” he said. “You try to make technology to make life easier, and it ends up making life more difficult.”