Iowa Democratic chair calls for independent investigation into ‘what happened’

By Zach Montellaro

The chair of the Iowa Democratic Party is calling for an independent investigation into what went wrong with the state's caucuses.

“With reports from 100% of the precincts in, we are taking steps to ensure the accuracy of the results,” Troy Price, the state party chair, tweeted. “An independent investigation of what happened is necessary once we finalize the results.”

The state party also put out a statement on Friday, noting that it had reached 100 percent of precincts reporting in on Thursday evening. “However, due to delays in reporting and some inconsistencies in data, the IDP continues to be fully committed to ensuring the data reported matches the precinct records of result,” the unsigned statement read.

However, the state party is seemingly putting the onus on campaigns to document and report inconsistencies in the reported data. The IDP said it "provided campaigns the opportunity to submit documentary evidence of inconsistencies between the data reported and the records of result for correction" until noon Central Time on Saturday. The party also said it extended the deadline for a campaign to file for a recanvass or recount through noon Central on Monday.

In the current results reported by the state party, Pete Buttigieg has a very narrow lead over Bernie Sanders in state delegate equivalents, the metric most media outlets will use to determine a winner.

However, the race remains uncalled by the Associated Press, with the news service citing the close margin and “evidence the party has not accurately tabulated some of its results, including those released late Thursday that the party reported as complete."

It is unclear to what extent campaigns will flag inconsistencies, but it appears right now that neither Sanders nor Buttigieg will request a recanvass.

"We're not going to ask for a recanvass of the whole state, that we're certainly not going to do," Sanders said in an interview with CNN on Friday, Sanders, citing media reports, highlighted some "some pretty apparent irregularities" in some precinct results and said "I think we will ask the Iowa Democratic Party to take a look at those precincts."

When asked about the Buttigieg campaign’s plans, a spokesperson pointed POLITICO to his appearance at a CNN town hall Thursday.

When asked what Democratic officials should do in Iowa, Buttigieg said, “Whatever they need to do in order to make sure that the information is clear and verified,” Buttigieg said. But when he was asked whether he’d personally request a recanvass, he responded, “I'll leave it to the party to get into that.”

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez asked the state party for a recanvass on Thursday, but was rebuffed. Some party officials complained that Perez is throwing the state party under the bus.

For his part, Price skipped multiple opportunities to criticize Perez at a Friday press conference, but the Iowa Democratic chairman did note that only candidates can ask for a recanvass.

"We're been proud to work with the DNC, we've worked hand-in-hand with the DNC," Price said. "It has been a partnership, and we're going to continue to move forward."

Iowa Democratic Party officials told POLITICO on Friday afternoon that there has not been a request for a recount or recanvass from any of the campaigns. Price said the party will hold another press conference on Monday afternoon.

Sanders’ campaign on Thursday flagged apparent inconsistencies in the data in a statement in which they declared victory.

“We are still analyzing the mountains of very complex data and are prepared on behalf of our supporters to make every effort to secure the national delegates we have earned,” Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to Sanders, told POLITICO.

Independently, both The New York Times and Daniel Nichanian, an editor at The Appeal, have tracked inconsistencies in precinct results.

Separately, the Buttigieg campaign raised concerns in a call with the state Democratic Party about how delegate allocation was conducted for satellite caucuses, POLITICO reported on Thursday (Bloomberg News first reported the call). The New York Times also reported that party documents lay out conflicting ways to award delegates in these situations — and with the margin as tight as it is, small changes could be significant.

However, it is not clear that campaigns flagging apparent mistakes would drastically change the results. At the Friday press conference, Price said the party is bound by what is on "official reports" submitted by precinct chairs on caucus night.

"What our job is at the Iowa Democratic Party is to report out the official reports that we receive ... so that is what we have done. But we have this process right now, and we will see what comes in through this process," he said. "The math worksheet is actually a legal document, it is signed by the precinct chair and the precinct captains ... so we are not allowed to change that. We have to report out what is reported to us."

Sanders seemed ready to move past Iowa at his own CNN town hall on Thursday. The Vermont senator said the state party “screwed up,” but highlighted his margin in the raw popular vote count and tried to turn the page.

“We have got enough of Iowa,” he said. “I think we should move on to New Hampshire.”

Holly Otterbein and Natasha Korecki contributed to this report.