DNC chair Tom Perez calls for ‘immediate recanvass’ of tally as Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders vie for victory
Pete Buttigieg expressed confidence over the Iowa caucus results on Thursday after days of chaotic vote tallying, even as the head of the Democratic National Committee called on the state to “recanvass” the votes.
Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders have remained neck-and-neck for most of the week, and the Associated Press declared on Thursday evening that the race was still too close to call.
With 100% of precincts reporting, the pair were locked in a virtual tie. Buttigieg, leading by just 1.5 state delegate equivalents, had an advantage of about 0.1 percentage points.
But that didn’t stop Buttigieg from declaring victory on Twitter as he prepared to take the stage for a CNN event. “The first time I was here, few people knew me or how to pronounce my name. Now we’ve won the Iowa caucuses and we’re just 5 days away from the New Hampshire Primary,” he wrote.
The results come in a contest marred by fresh revelations about technical issues and reporting delays that have led to allegations of inaccuracy.
Wading into the growing chaos, the Democratic National Committee chair, Tom Perez, called for a “recanvass” of the tally.
“Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic party to immediately begin a recanvass,” Perez said on Twitter.
He added in second tweet: “A recanvass is a review of the worksheets from each caucus site to ensure accuracy.”
Speaking to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC on Thursday night, Perez called the caucus fiasco “unacceptable” but said he only sought a recanvass in certain precincts. “In the grand scheme of things,” he said, a recanvass would probably not affect the overall delegate math. But “the reason why I think it’s important is because I want to make sure that every Iowa voter knows their vote was counted”.
At an event at his New Hampshire state campaign headquarters in Manchester on Thursday, Sanders touted his lead in the raw, popular vote in Iowa, while Buttigieg is slightly ahead in the allocation of party delegate votes, which is the tally that ultimately determines the party nominee.
In a disgruntled mood, he also referred to the problems tabulating the results.
“That screw-up has been extremely unfair to the people of Iowa,” Sanders said, adding: “I want to thank the people of Iowa for the very strong victory they gave us.”
Sanders said his campaign was ahead of the former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg and his rivals by about 6,000 votes.
“Our campaign is winning the popular initial vote by some 6,000 popular votes,” Sanders said.
Sanders said he expected either he or Buttigieg to lead among delegate statistics by a tiny margin.
However, the controversies that have dogged the vote since results tallying problems emerged almost as soon as polls closed continued on Thursday. The New York Times reported that one tranche of results released by the state Democratic party on Wednesday were “riddled with inconsistencies and other flaws”.
The paper said that its own reporting showed that: “In some cases, vote tallies do not add up. In others, precincts are shown allotting the wrong number of delegates to certain candidates. And in at least a few cases, the Iowa Democratic party’s reported results do not match those reported by the precincts.”
The deadlocked contest gives both Buttigieg and Sanders a burst of momentum as they seek to pull away from the crowded field. The nearly complete results show them leading the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, with former vice-president Joe Biden and Senator Amy Klobuchar trailing.
But the results in Iowa were muddied by the stunning breakdown of the caucus reporting process in a state that traditionally kicks off presidential nominating contests. Iowa officials initially attributed a delay in reporting results to technical problems with an app that precinct chairs were supposed to use to record votes, then to backlogs as those volunteers tried to call the party to submit their totals.
Much of the political world has already shifted its attention to next-up New Hampshire, which holds the first primary election in the Democrats’ 2020 nomination fight on Tuesday.
Buttigieg and Sanders are separated by 40 years in age and conflicting ideology.
Sanders, a 78-year-old self-described democratic socialist, has been a progressive powerhouse for decades. Buttigieg, a 38-year-old former municipal official, represents the more moderate wing of the Democratic party. Buttigieg is also the first openly gay candidate to earn presidential primary delegates from a major political party.
Sanders and his supporters raised issues with the primary process after the 2016 election, prompting the Democratic National Committee to make changes that affected the Iowa reporting regulations.
As a result, Iowa released three sets of data from the caucuses: the tally of voter preferences at the start of the caucus; their preferences after supporters of candidates who reached less than 15% made a second choice; and the results of state delegate equivalents.
The final alignment results are used to determine state delegate equivalents, which is the metric the AP has long used to call the winner of the caucus. Democrats pick their nominee based on delegate totals.
Associated Press contributed to this report