Who Lost In The Iowa Democratic Caucus? And Why Bernie Won
-by Melody Siegler
Hillary Clinton crows that she won in Iowa. That’s surely what she sounded like she was doing her "victory" speech. So, of course, Bernie Sanders lost. Hmmm… but who actually lost?
Before getting into that, here is one of several reports about the improbable coin toss:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won six back-to-back coin tosses against opponent Bernie Sander's camp at a half-dozen Iowa precincts where voting results were too close to call Tuesday morning-- a mathematical feat that raised eyebrows and a few questions.I was one of those with "raised eyebrows," so I whipped out an Excel Spreadsheet, and got into the niggly math. According to various sources (including the Iowa Democratic Party) the final delegate counts were Clinton- 699.57, Sanders- 695.49, O’Malley- 7.61, out of 1403 delegates. That doesn’t quite add up to exactly 1403, because there were 0.33 uncommitted delegates. So, given 1403 delegates, here are the percentages, using Clinton’s 6/6 coin tosses as a starting point. I followed the money, so to speak.
The 1-in-64 odds of Clinton successfully winning six coin flips across Polk, Jasper, Cedar and Johnson counties during a deadlocked Iowa caucus prompted confusion and concern from political experts and social media users.
"It is curious," said Dr. David Bridsell, Dean of the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College. "You don’t want the awarding of delegates to come down to heads or tails."
Here are the results, given various scenarios:
1) Clinton 6/6 coin toss wins Clinton: 49.86%, Sanders: 49.57% (thus final report of 49.9% vs 49.6%)
2) If, however the coin tosses had gone 3/3, we have Clinton: 49.65%, Sanders: 49.79%. Assuming 0.65 rounds up to 0.7, the result is Clinton 49.7% vs. Sanders 49.8%. Win for Sanders.
3) And if had the "money" been on Sander’s side, 6/6 to Sanders, we have Clinton: 49.43%, Sanders: 50.00%, or Clinton 49.4% vs. Sanders 50.0%. Win for Sanders.
As an aside, after an onerous adventure trying to understand the numbers and the ins and out of the Iowa Caucuses, I found this from NPR. I confess I am not a big fan of NPR (aka Nice Polite Republicans) reporting, but their 1, 2, 3 list seemed to be okay-- in terms of explaining the massive confusion about Iowa... below.
Iowa has a multistep process for picking delegates. Monday night was just Step 1. Here's how it works:Now back to my question at the top. Who lost in the Iowa Democratic caucus? Or, rather, who lost out in the Iowa Democratic caucus? Clinton thinks Sanders lost, but...
1. There were 1,683 precinct caucuses on Iowa caucus night.
2. Those precinct caucuses elected 11,065 delegates to the county conventions, which take place March 12.
3. That universe of 11,065 delegates is whittled down to 1,406 who will attend congressional district (April 30) and state conventions (June 18).
4. And here's the root of what's causing all the confusion: The breakdown of those 11,065 is not reported on caucus night. (my emphasis)
5. What IS reported, what Clinton's 49.9 to 49.6 percent tracing-paper-thin lead is based on, is "state delegate equivalents."
6. Those are ESTIMATES of how many of those 11,065 will attend the congressional district and state conventions.
For one, it was the potential Democratic voters who couldn’t make it to the site of their caucus at 7 pm promptly. For example, people working at the 7 p.m hour, who depend on their job income to keep afloat financially, in a job that offers no leeway for time off. Some might have only one job, but others, might have two or three jobs, just to meet expenses. Not exactly unheard of, yanno.
Or maybe there were others who couldn’t get to a caucus because they were chronically ill, bedridden, elderly. And are desperately in need of health care. Use your imagination.
And, then there’s another group of voters, who made it to a caucus, but whose votes didn’t count as full votes. So, each counted as a fraction of a person in weighing the votes.
Just like how the electoral college system makes it so extra Democrats votes are worth less in Vermont than in Ohio, the (Iowa) caucus process makes it so extra supporters in a heavily Sanders precinct are worth less than if they were in a battleground precinct...So, sure, Clinton "won." By a very narrow margin indeed. But, I wonder if she is thinking about anything except her iron footed march to the White House? To do the best for the people in the U.S., as she claims? I wonder if she thought about the people disenfranchised by the Iowa Democratic caucuses? My answer: no, she was thinking about Hillary. Sander’s was and always has been thinking about what people in the U.S. (apart from the billionaires) need to survive and flourish. I call it a win for Bernie.
Take the university towns: More than a quarter-- 27 percent-- of Sanders supporters come from just three counties of Iowa’s 99, according to the Register poll, each home to one of the state’s largest universities. But those three counties award only 12 percent of the total 1401 (1403!) delegates at stake statewide.
UPDATE: Was Iowa Fixed?
The Des Moines Register has some serious questions about how the caucuses were run. Did Wasserman Schultz strike again in an effort the fix the count for the grotesquely corrupt establishment candidate she backs?
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.
First of all, the results were too close not to do a complete audit of results. Two-tenths of 1 percent separated Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. A caucus should not be confused with an election, but it’s worth noting that much larger margins trigger automatic recounts in other states.
...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.