‘Iowa caucus disaster’: What went wrong

Nearly 1,700 precinct caucus sites, tens of thousands of people and 10 Democratic candidates for the US 2020 presidential elections.

The start of Iowa’s Democratic caucuses on Monday night appeared to go off without any major issues. That was, however, until hours went by without results, forcing the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) to announce there was a problem.

Nearly 24 hours after the caucuses began, only partial results were out. With 71 percent of the precincts reporting, the IDP said former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg led in the delegate count. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were in second and third place and former Vice President Joe Biden trailed in fourth place.

It is unclear when the final votes are expected, but IDP Chair Troy Price apologised for Monday night’s errors and delays.

Here’s what we know about what went wrong.

What was the issue?
The problem, according to the IDP, was with the code in a mobile phone app that precincts used to report results.

Price said in a statement that the delay in reporting results was not due to a hack and that independent cybersecurity consultants had tested the systems in preparation for the caucuses.

“We have every indication that our systems were secure and there was not a cybersecurity intrusion,” Price said.

But he added: “While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system.”

He noted that the issue had been fixed, and the “application’s reporting issue did not impact the ability of precinct chairs to report data accurately”.

Why was an app being used?
The Iowa caucus is not a ballot system – Democrats vote by actually showing up to designated gyms, churches, mosques and other locations throughout the state and, for the first time, around the world to physically stand together in groups to show their support for their preferred candidate.

They go through two rounds. In the first round, each candidate must have 15 percent of people’s votes to be viable for the next round. If their candidate is not viable in the first round, people can walk over and join another group or if close to viability, try to convince others from other non-viable groups to join their side.

Many precincts were expected to enter the results of these rounds into a new mobile app, specifically designed for the caucuses. But, as one precinct chair told KCCI Des Moines, the app would not let her enter the number of participants in the second round.

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