Iowa Dems short-changed Bernie Sanders

A Democratic party official in Iowa’s Poweshiek county says her precinct's delegate numbers were changed by state party officials during the Iowa caucuses.

Although a later review corrected the change, Powesheik County Democratic party co-chair Rachel Bly told AMI Newswire that the 1st Ward caucus in Grinnell was reported to the state party as giving 19 delegates to Sen. Bernie Sanders and seven delegates to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to a release from the Iowa Democrats on Feb. 7, however, the numbers originally came to them as 18 for Sanders and eight for Clinton.

The discrepancies were revealed as part of a review the Iowa Democrats initiated of all precincts, ultimately identifying 19 that were reviewed individually. Five of those 19 results were changed following the review, narrowing an already razor-thin margin victory for Clinton.

In three of those five cases, the change benefited Sanders. A precinct in Story County mistakenly had turned over a Sanders delegate to Clinton, while in Osceola County, Maryland governor Martin O’Malley was wrongly awarded a delegate Sanders had earned.

While the review did not change the outcome, University of Iowa political science professor Timothy Hagel told AMI Newswire that the change could rattle perceptions of the democratic process for voters in the primary.

“It’s not that much; it’s a question of, look, if that happened in these five precincts where … people said ‘hey that wasn’t what we turned in,’ maybe [party officials] double-check that,” Hagel said. “But it leaves open the question whether there might be broader problems.”

Bly deferred additional questions to the state party leadership. Representatives of the Iowa Democratic Party said in a news release that the review was part of a collaborative effort with the counties as well as each individual campaign. Iowa Democratic Party Chair Dr. Andy McGuire pointed out that the review only affected five county convention delegates out of “more than 11,000.”

Sanders told reporters two days after the caucus that Clinton’s declaration of victory, from a less than three-tenths of a point margin, amounted to spin.

“You can talk about who won or who lost, but when we came from so far down, taking on the most powerful political machine in the Democratic Party, we did pretty well, and I think most American people recognize that,” Sanders said Feb. 3 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show.

The news comes as the latest polls show Sanders losing ground in New Hampshire, a state he previously touted as being firmly in his grasp. An American Research Group poll released Feb. 7 gave Sanders a 10-point lead over Clinton in New Hampshire, down from a 16-point lead only four days prior.

The issue highlights some of the criticisms Democrats in Iowa face in trying to run its first-in-the-nation caucus, without invoking laws that require New Hampshire to schedule its own primary roughly a week ahead of any other primary in the nation. 

“Democrats have a much more involved system of calculating this because they’re trying to avoid the appearance of being a primary,” Hagel said. “Any kind of system like this where you have a lot of volunteers … there are going to be problems.”

Currently, the Republican party in Iowa uses a secret balloting process that appears to have fewer problems, although it recently updated its laws to make polled responses binding, so as to avoid confusion when it comes time for the Republican delegation from Iowa to meet and select a candidate.

Democrats, meanwhile, ask caucus goers to segregate into two groups, forcing candidates to absorb into another group when their candidate does not have a sufficient number in the group. The groups are then counted, and “state delegate equivalents” are awarded to the candidates accordingly.