Democratic National Committee meddling, combined with missteps by the state Democratic Party, were the primary drivers of the chaos that torpedoed the Iowa caucuses earlier this year, according to a new audit commissioned by the state party.
The report, which was distributed to the Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee at a meeting Saturday morning and obtained by POLITICO, identified a series of errors made by the DNC, IDP and the technology company contracted by the state party to build a reporting app to collect caucus results.
The February caucuses were overrun by foul-ups: The state party was unable to report a winner on caucus night, the mobile app to report results failed to work for many precinct chairs, the back-up telephone systems were jammed and some precincts had initial reporting errors. The state party chair, Troy Price, resigned in the wake of the debacle, which put Iowa’s status as the first in the nation nominating contest in serious jeopardy.
But the report pins the blame squarely on the DNC for the heart of the problem on caucus night — the delay in the reporting of the results. According to the report, the DNC demanded the technology company, Shadow, build a conversion tool just weeks before the caucuses to allow the DNC to have real-time access to the raw numbers because the national party feared the app would miscalculate results. The DNC’s data system used a different database format than Shadow’s reporting app, which caused multiple problems.
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“Attempting to graft an entirely new software element onto the back-end reporting system at the proverbial eleventh hour is likely always going to be problematic, and it was ultimately the cause of a major problem on caucus night,” the report concludes. “Furthermore, the IDP was not involved in the development of this tool. The IDP simply permitted the DNC to direct the IDP’s vendor.”
The audit states the conversion tool had coding errors that spit out inaccurate numbers and caused confusion about the accuracy of the results, eventually leading to delays in reporting. But the state party’s app never malfunctioned nor was hacked, the report concludes.
“When the DNC’s database conversion tool failed to work correctly, it caused the DNC to wrongly stop the IDP from reporting its results, and the IDP’s entire planned reporting process was thrown into disarray,” the report says. “The DNC’s interjection was the catalyst for the resulting chaos in the boiler room and in the IDP’s attempts to manually collect and confirm caucus results by hand. If the DNC had not interjected itself into the results reporting process based on its erroneous data conversion, caucus night could conceivably have proceeded according to the IDP’s initial plan.”
“Every four years, the DNC looks back at what worked and what didn’t work and the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee will continue to evaluate all areas of our nominating process and make recommendations for any changes,” he said in a statement.
The state party and its leadership also failed to communicate effectively with the media, the report says, exacerbating the reporting problems. News organizations were given a clear indication that results would be out on caucus night — the delayed release of data simply created more chaos and confusion.