Only half of the results should be in by 5 pm on Tuesday, February 4th, leading to confusion amongst voters wondering if the Caucus process is worthwhile and whether their votes count. Margaret Valenti writes on the mishap of this first Iowa Caucus heading into a stressful week for Democratic Presidential Candidates.
For the Democratic party, which argued that all elections should be conducted solely via paper ballots after what happened during the 2016 presidential election, where it is clear Russia interfered, the disaster currently taking place in Iowa is a bit ironic and hypocritical. There are still no official results for the Democratic Party because they chose to hold elections partially via an app, developed by a company called Shadow, for those who could not attend Caucus meetings. In some counties, the app worked smoothly, but this was not the case for the entire state. When the app did not function as intended in certain counties, likely due to app development error and voter error, people flooded the call centers until late in the night and the Democratic party is still unable to accurately determine who won the Iowa Caucus.
This week, the most important start to the 2020 Presidential Election, starts off with Pete Buttigieg already claiming victory in Iowa despite the lack of results as I am typing this. Initial results, provided at 5 pm Tuesday, February 4th, seem to indicate his victory in Iowa, meanwhile Sanders leads in the popular vote as it stands with 62% of the vote in. The Republican’s Caucus seemed to go smoothly with Donald Trump winning that Caucus by a landslide and declaring himself the true victor of the Iowa Caucus on both sides.
A Shaky Night In Iowa
The mishap makes people distrust the Caucus process altogether, an old process designed when the U.S. only included thirteen states. Many argue that the starting point being in Iowa is also discriminatory given that the demographics of Iowa are more than ninety percent white, not a correct representation of the entire country. The Iowa and New Hampshire Caucuses often yield different results given the demographics and politics of each region, neither giving a clear sign of who will win their party’s nomination. Each seems like a way for candidates to beat their chests. The results do not matter, only if they say they won or say they had favorable results to gain donor support. They also determine the mood of the country — the people of the U.S. — in favor of one candidate or another. However, if candidates can beat their chests without any results, does that mean the voices of the people matter? Does that mean the Caucuses matter at all? How much can we trust these processes?
These are the questions spinning through people’s minds — politicians, journalists, voters, the media, etc. — as we try to determine whether Donald Trump is right this time, that there is a rigging of the entire system. Both Bernie and Biden could claim this Caucus was invalid. 2016 revealed that the Democratic Party actively worked to keep Bernie from becoming the Democratic nominee, and he could use that same argument now, just as Biden seems to be doing. Biden’s campaign manager sent a letter to the Iowa Democratic Party asking that his campaign see the results of the Caucus before their release to the public. As a key member of the democratic party, his questioning of the results is troubling. It means that there is something wrong, that even if the results do not point in his favor, he could discount them entirely; the same thing Donald Trump threatens to do all the time. Each candidate conducts their own preliminary polling and tries to gather results from each county from supporters state wide as the Caucus occurs; Sanders’ campaign even released their own numbers, which seem to indicate that Sanders sits in first place, Buttigieg in second, and Warren in third, respectively.
The Loss Of Faith In The Process
Some counties in Iowa started releasing their numbers online — specifically Twitter — for journalists to start deciding who was actually “winning” the Iowa Caucus. Meanwhile, the Twittersphere is flooding with criticism and speculation, with some voices breaking through the mix and calling for calm. All the voices crying out for accountability, spouting criticism, and demanding an end to the Iowa Caucus use similar (not the same) rhetoric as Donald Trump while simultaneously claiming he is wrong. I am not saying that the criticism is right or wrong, nor that no one should say anything, but imagine what this does for any swing voters or people who are still undecided about which candidate to throw their support behind. Imagine how many people, after the past two days, will decide that Donald Trump is the better choice because he is, in this case, right. Will Donald Trump fix the problem seen in Iowa on a national scale? No, it is hard to believe that he ever would, but there are still no results as I write this and that is frustrating, and general frustration with the process disenchants the electorate.
It is a general trail of failure for the Democratic Party; they did not win the 2016 Presidential Election, they did not remove Donald Trump from office via impeachment, and they did not conduct this Iowa Caucus smoothly. What happened over the past two days is a fitting example for why the U.S. needs to transfer to a solely paper voting system. It could also be an argument for employers to give employees time off during the day to go vote on important election days and to grant more transportation access on those days; the paper system does create barriers for those who have difficulties with timing. There needs to be a workable way to vote that creates more access without being hackable, prone to disruption, or confusing to use. The issue of voting and how we go about it in the U.S. does not have an easy solution. It is unclear when the results trickling in will culminate in a final result this evening, but it is doubtful anyone will care. This fiasco puts more doubt into the democratic voting system, which is objectively bad no matter how you look at it or whose fault it is.