‘Something Smells in the Democratic Party’: Des Moines Register Wants Audit of Clinton-Sanders Caucuses

iowa-caucus-hillary-clinton AP Andrew Harnick
AP/Andrew Harnick

Yesterday I described the Iowa Democratic caucus as “a circus of ineptitude, bad planning, ambiguous rules, and deliberate obfuscation of the results.”

The Des Moines Register is even more harsh in its call for a full audit of the contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Iowa:

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.

For good measure, the editorial is entitled, “Something Smells In the Democratic Party.”

The Register’s editors say the Iowa Democratic Party must conduct a complete audit of the results, because the race was so close: “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.”

Also, there have been too many reports of “inconsistent counts, untrained and overwhelmed volunteers, confused voters, cramped precinct locations, a lack of voter registration forms and other problems.”

The Register asserts that members of its editorial board personally observed “opportunities for error amid Monday night’s chaos.”

The paper supports the Sanders campaign’s demand for paperwork it can compare to the computerized vote counts and castigates Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Dr. Andy McGuire for saying no.

“McGuire knows what’s at stake,” the editors write. “Her actions only confirm the suspicions, wild as they might be, of Sanders supporters. Their candidate, after all, is opposed by the party establishment — and wasn’t even a Democrat a few months ago.”

The editors call on McGuire to commit the ultimate heresy against the Iowa Democratic Party and release the raw vote counts — something the Party has adamantly resisted doing. It prefers to use an arcane delegate-allegation system to keep insurgent candidates from doing precisely what Bernie Sanders would like to do: claim he won the popular vote, while the Party establishment handed a technical victory to their preferred candidate.

In addition to the raw vote totals, the Register wants to see a full list of those now-infamous coin tosses, which Party officials are now describing in a manner completely opposite from what the DMR gleaned from social media after the caucuses: the Register says it identified six definite coin tosses and a possible seventh, with Clinton apparently winning all six of the known flips, while the Party claims there were seven coin tosses and Sanders won six of them.

With a full audit completed, the Register advised Democrats to appoint a “blue-ribbon commission to study how to improve the caucuses,” the way Republicans did after a rough night in 2012.  The current system is described as “just as antiquated and opaque as the smoke-filled rooms of yore.”

The Register editors conclude by asserting that nothing less than “the future of the first-in-the-nation caucuses” demands a full audit.