“What happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period.”
Something is rotten in Iowa and it’s the results of Monday night’s Democratic Caucus.
Hillary won by the skin of her teeth and with the help of some incredible luck in a half-dozen coin tosses.
Thursday, the editorial board of the Des Moines Register called for an audit of Monday night’s Democratic Caucus results. It’s worth noting the DMR’s endorsed Hillary Clinton as their Democratic candidate of choice. “Something smells in the Democratic Party,” they wrote.
Once again the world is laughing at Iowa. Late-night comedians and social media mavens are having a field day with jokes about missing caucusgoers and coin flips.
That’s fine. We can take ribbing over our quirky process. But what we can’t stomach is even the whiff of impropriety or error.
What happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period. Democracy, particularly at the local party level, can be slow, messy and obscure. But the refusal to undergo scrutiny or allow for an appeal reeks of autocracy.
The Iowa Democratic Party must act quickly to assure the accuracy of the caucus results, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The DMR then listed its reasons for believing an audit necessary:
Second, too many questions have been raised. Too many accounts have arisen of inconsistent counts, untrained and overwhelmed volunteers, confused voters, cramped precinct locations, a lack of voter registration forms and other problems. Too many of us, including members of the Register editorial board who were observing caucuses, saw opportunities for error amid Monday night’s chaos.
The Sanders campaign is rechecking results on its own, going precinct by precinct, and is already finding inconsistencies, said Rania Batrice, a Sanders spokeswoman. The campaign seeks the math sheets or other paperwork that precinct chairs filled out and were supposed to return to the state party. They want to compare those documents to the results entered into a Microsoft app and sent to the party.
“Let’s compare notes. Let’s see if they match,” Batrice said Wednesday.
Dr. Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, dug in her heels and said no. She said the three campaigns had representatives in a room in the hours after the caucuses and went over the discrepancies.
They even suggested a pathway forward, one that sounds perfectly reasonable:
Work with all the campaigns to audit results. Break silly party tradition and release the raw vote totals. Provide a list of each precinct coin flip and its outcome, as well as other information sought by the Register. Be transparent.
And then call for a blue ribbon commission to study how to improve the caucuses, as the Republican Party of Iowa did after its own fiasco in 2012. Monday’s mess showed that it’s time for the Democrats to change, too.
The current process grew out of efforts to find a more democratic way to choose delegates to conventions, after the grassroots saw how Democratic powerbrokers controlled the nominating process in 1968. But the caucuses have become as antiquated and opaque as the smoke-filled rooms of yore.
Democrats should ask themselves: What do we want the Iowa caucus to be? How can we preserve its uniqueness while bringing more order? Does it become more like a straw poll or primary? How do we strike the balance between tradition and transparency?
We have time to consider these questions. First, however, we need answers to what happened Monday night. The future of the first-in-the-nation caucuses demands it.
Can you imagine if the results of an audit flipped the Caucus in Bernie’s favor? What a glorious disaster that would be.
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