The results for the 2020 Democratic Iowa caucus, as of press time, which took place on Feb. 3, have yet to be fully released. This is unprecedented, and reflects the failures of both the Iowa Democratic Party and the caucus system as a whole.
This stems primarily from issues with the app that the Iowa Democratic Party recommended caucus chairs use to report results. As more information is released about the app, it is becoming clear that it was not ready for use in such an important forum.
Though criticisms regarding the funding of the app’s development have built over the past few days, the issue truly lies in the fact that the app did not function as intended for many caucus chairs. While state party officials have publicly downplayed the app’s role in the delayed results, the fact is that some caucus managers had difficulty getting in contact with the party’s hotline to report both issues with the app and results of the caucus. This is unacceptable.
Following subsequent inconsistencies in results reporting, the state party officials that oversee the counting of results have been forced to look at the paper-and-pencil records — luckily still kept at each site. The idea that an event so integral as the Iowa caucus, held once every four years, would rely on an app developed in the final two months with no concrete back-up plan is an affront to the importance of our electoral process in a free and democratic society. Undoubtedly, the plans to use a similar system of reporting in Nevada should be abandoned before it’s too late.
This is only one facet of the real issue here — the Iowa caucus is a strange, confusing and archaic process that should be abandoned in favor of a traditional primary election. Not unlike the nationwide electoral college system, caucus-goers in rural, low-population areas award a candidate more delegates per citizen than urban centers. As such, Pete Buttigieg is currently the victor of the Iowa caucus, despite Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) having received more votes. While the difference is marginal, it is consequential on a grand scale in a presidential election.
Additionally, by the realignment process, supporters of candidates deemed “unviable” (by not receiving enough support) may switch to their second-choice candidate. A result of this process is that the supporters of several unpopular candidates combined can greatly influence the numbers of more popular candidates, and people may switch to a candidate they are less enthusiastic or knowledgeable about simply to make sure their voice is heard. Forcing a portion of voters to either change their mind or not participate is insulting in a country where every one should have the right to be heard in the electoral process.
Overall, the long delay in results is incredibly disappointing and disheartening. If we are going to continue to run the presidential primaries this way, which itself is debatable, we should at least make sure we can run this process competently.