Remember the Iowa Dem Caucus Disaster? Here's How It Happened


The foul-ups that marred the Iowa caucuses in February were largely the fault of the Democratic National Committee, according to a new report.

Because of a wide variety of technological errors, the first-in-the-nation Democratic caucuses became a subject of ridicule when the winner could not be determined on the night of the caucuses due to malfunctions in the app designed to report the results, which triggered further problems such as overloaded phone systems as officials tried to use the back-up system to report the results.

The report, which was shared with Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee Saturday, also blames the technology company that built the app that failed, according to Politico, which obtained a copy.

The report states the process started to go off track when the DNC asked Shadow, the technology company that built the app, to adapt the app by creating a conversion tool so that the DNC could have access to the raw numbers as they were being reported, according to Politico.

However, the app and the DNC used different systems, which led to 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 said, according to Politico.  “Furthermore, the [Iowa Democratic Party] was not involved in the development of this tool. The IDP simply permitted the DNC to direct the IDP’s vendor.”

Coding errors in the conversion tool led to inaccurate results, the report found.

“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 said, according to Politico.

“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,” the report said.

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The Hill also obtained a copy of the report on the review, which was conducted by former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell, a former chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party,  and Faegre Drinker, a law firm.

State Democratic Party staffers, employees of the technology company and representatives of several campaigns were interviewed.

Accordign to The Hill, the report said that the DNC-demanded tool “was not necessary for the reporting app to function or for the reporting app to work with any of the IDP’s systems.”

“The tool was needed exclusively for the DNC’s use to quality-check the incoming results in real time,” the report stated, according to The Hill. “The IDP was planning to have staff check the results prior to releasing them. The DNC’s quality-check was an extra step that was not part of the IDP’s plan for caucus night.”

The DNC did not participate in the report’s research, and pointed the finger at others.

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The DNC said its request was “validated by numerous press reports which found ‘errors and inconsistencies’ in the initial caucus results. The underlying technical problems were caused by errors from the IDP’s vendor,” according to The Hill.

“Evaluating the nominating process always happens following the election so that DNC staff can remain focused on winning the general election, and this cycle that work helped contribute to President-Elect Biden’s historic victory,” David Bergstein, a spokesman for the DNC, said in a statement, according to Politico.

(Eventual Democratic nominee Joe Biden was routed in the Iowa caucuses. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was eventually declared the winner in Iowa, according to ABC News. )

The DNC said it offered to give written answers to the lawyers investigating the foul-up written, but said the offer was rejected, according to Politico.

Bergstein told Politico there was a need for a “quality control check,” citing errors in some initial caucus results. Shadow, the tech company, was responsible for problems with the technology, he said.

The report said the state Democratic Party waited too long to develop the app that was used, leading to inadequate training, according to Politico.

The report noted that the delay was caused in part by the DNC, which it said “aggressively interjected itself in all of the IDP’s technology endeavors,” according to Politico.

Campbell said the future of the caucuses rests with party leaders, according to the Des Moines Register.

“It wasn’t our task to tell the party what to do with our report, but rather to review what happened caucus night,” she told the newspaper.

“I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say I think our party leaders will read the report and find new and better ways to avoid what happened last caucus night on the next caucus night. But that will be up to the leaders of the Democratic Party.”

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Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack can be reached at
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