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State-led review of Democratic caucuses largely blames national party intrusion
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State-led review of Democratic caucuses largely blames national party intrusion

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DES MOINES — A late coding change, at the insistence of the national Democratic Party, is what caused the technical problems with a new program designed to report the results of the 2020 Iowa caucuses, according to a report published Saturday.

The report, based on a review conducted by a trio of Iowa attorneys, says the Democratic National Committee insisted on a late change to the app, and that change is what caused technical issues on caucus night, Feb. 3.

The report also says the DNC by not delivering the program until August of 2019 made it difficult for the state party to adequately prepare for reporting the caucus results and have time to adequately train workers on how to use the program.

The technical malfunction prevented the Iowa Democratic Party from reporting results on caucus night. The reporting delay spread into the following days and weeks, giving the first-in-the-nation event a black eye nationally.

“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,” the report says. “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.”

Iowa Democrats pledged to conduct a thorough review to determine what went wrong during the 2020 caucuses. The review was conducted by Iowa attorneys Nick Klinefeldt, Bonnie Campbell and David Yoshimura, and resulted in the 26-page report that was published Saturday after it was presented to the state party’s leadership committee.

The attorneys said they reviewed thousands of documents and conducted dozens of interviews with state and county party leaders, representatives from three presidential campaigns and a worker for the company that developed the results-reporting program.

The national Democratic Party declined to participate in the review and did not state a reason for its refusal to participate, the attorneys said.

The DNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

The report affirms that the results-reporting program was not hacked or otherwise compromised. It also identifies several problems in the state party’s caucus night command center, other issues that contributed to the delay in reporting results, and a failure of the state party to establish expectations for when the media could expect results.

“There were (multiple) fingers to be pointed at different players,” Campbell said during a video press conference Saturday. “There’s that moment when the stars are not in alignment, and we experienced one of those.”

The report also makes a series of recommendations for how the state party may avoid similar missteps in the future. Those recommendations include setting a hard deadline for when all technology and software can be altered before the caucuses, taking complete ownership — in other words, blocking out the national party — of work with technology vendors, technology projects and results-reporting systems, better preparing and integrating technology into its caucus-night command center and managing media expectations for the reporting of caucus results.

“It wasn’t our task to tell the party what to do with our report but rather to review what happened caucus night,” Campbell said. “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. That will be up to the leaders of the Democratic party.”

Iowa’s position as the leadoff state in the nation’s presidential nominating process is always under fire; this year’s issues in addition to other high-profile issues with the 2016 Democratic and 2012 Republican caucuses may have worsened the already shaky ground on which the Iowa caucuses stand.

Campbell said the review was not undertaken with the goal of preserving Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status.

“Our mission, our purpose for being engaged was not to develop a plan to save the Iowa caucuses — you can call me another time for my opinion on that — but rather to understand what happened that went wrong,” Campbell said. “I really don’t know the future of the Iowa caucuses, and I don’t know that this report is going to alter that in any significant way at all. In fact I doubt that it does.”

According to the report: the DNC “in the last days or weeks leading up to the caucuses,” demanded it have access to the data coming into the state real-time on caucus night. The national party wanted an ability to double-check the state’s data before allowing the state to publish results. A conversion tool was built into the program, and that conversion tool is what faltered on caucus night, preventing the state party from being able to report results.

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