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The AP gives up on trying to declare a caucus winner, as Iowa Democratic Party reports 100 percent of results

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City High auditorium filled up on caucus night. Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. –Zak Neumann/Little Village

The Associated Press announced on Thursday night it is unable to declare a winner in the Iowa Democratic Party’s (IDP) caucus, held Monday. For decades, news organizations and readers across the world have relied on the AP’s reporting of the Iowa Caucus, and counted on it to determine who could be legitimately described as the winner.

That won’t happen this year, Sally Buzbee, the AP’s senior vice president and executive editor, explained in a story published by, of course, the AP.

“The Associated Press calls a race when there is a clear indication of a winner. Because of a tight margin between former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders and the irregularities in this year’s caucus process, it is not possible to determine a winner at this point,” Buzbee said.

Those “irregularities” started with the failure on Caucus Night of a largely untested smartphone app the IDP wanted precinct chairs to use to report results. No official caucus results were released by the IDP on Monday night, though numbers have trickled in over the past three days.

Uncertainty about the accuracy of the information so far released led Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez to call for a recanvass of the caucus results. In a statement issued after Perez tweeted his call for a recanvass, IDP Chair Troy Price said that one can be done only at the request of a candidate who participated in the caucus. So far, none of the candidates — all of whom are busy campaigning in New Hampshire, ahead of that state’s primary on Tuesday — have asked for a recanvass.

Rockne Cole hands out presidential preference cards at City High. Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. –Zak Neumann/Little Village

The AP cited Perez’s concerns about accuracy in its story stating why they decided not to declare a winner.

“Further, the party has yet to report results from some satellite caucus sites, from which there are still an unknown number of state delegate equivalents to be won,” the AP added.

The news service, which was founded in 1846 — the same year Iowa became a state — said it “will continue to report and review the results from the Iowa Democratic Party as it completes its tabulation, as well as the results of any potential recanvass or recount.”

In keeping with its promise, the AP updated its reporting Thursday night. Shortly after the news service declared it was unable to declare a winner, the IDP released a final batch of numbers, which it said accounted for all but one of its 1,765 caucus precincts.

As in previous tallies, Sen. Bernie Sanders had the most supporters, with a lead of 2,631 in the final alignment, than the candidate closest to him, Pete Buttigieg. But because IDP rules on how delegates to the party’s state convention are awarded give greater weight to small, rural precincts, Buttigieg, who did better than Sanders in those precincts, ended up being awarded 564 state delegate equivalents, which is two more than the Vermont senator received.


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