Iowa's coveted position as the first-in-the-nation nominating contest faces its most daunting challenge in decades in light of problems that kept the state Democratic Party from reporting results.
Should Iowa lose its status as the nation's first contest in presidential elections?
The caucuses were already facing plenty of headwinds amid criticism that the overwhelmingly white state isn't representative of the country's diversity. And the final weeks of the campaign were complicated by President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, which sidelined several candidates and left Iowa eerily quiet at a pivotal moment. But the Iowa Democratic Party's failure to release results left the contest, long criticized for its complicated rules, one step closer to losing its status.
“With this reporting debacle, it may be the end,” said Joe Trippi, a longtime Democratic presidential campaign operative and veteran of multiple Iowa campaigns. “And that's from someone who loves the state and the process there."
The Associated Press said Thursday that it is unable to declare a winner because there was evidence the party had not accurately tabulated some of its results, including those released late Thursday that the party reported as complete.
The Iowa Democratic Party said Monday night that results were indefinitely delayed due to “quality checks” and “inconsistencies” in some reporting, an embarrassing complication that added a new layer of doubt in the process that has come under increasing criticism.
The party said the problem was not a result of a “hack or an intrusion.” But the statement came after Iowa voters packed sites for these in-person political meetings aimed at measuring early presidential support across the state with at least four leading candidates battling to win the opening contest.
Democratic Party county chairmen had problems using an app intended to convey precinct-level data to the state party headquarters. In addition, the party found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results which were the outgrowth of a process to streamline the process after criticisms of the process in 2016.
It was another blow to a party-run process few Americans understand for its differences from a primary election, including antiquated rules and a mathematical threshold for candidate viability in the Democratic contests.
Case against Iowa
There has been mounting pressure over the past several campaigns for Democrats to begin the march to the nomination in a place more demographically representative of the increasingly racially and ethnically diverse party. Iowa's population is 85 percent white, while the Democratic Party is much more racially and ethnically diverse.
That sentiment took a short breather after Barack Obama became the first African American candidate to win the caucuses in 2008, en route to the presidential nomination and the White House.
Writing an opinion piece for The Hill, Sam Nelson, an associate professor of political science at The University of Toledo, said there has been increasing criticism among Democrats of the status of Iowa as the first state to vote given the state is so unrepresentative of the nation as a whole and the Democratic Party in particular.
"The state is mostly white and the largest city of Des Moines has only about 200,000 residents," Nelson wrote. "The failure to report results in a timely manner fits with these other criticisms and will likely lead to the demise of the Iowa caucuses."
Even before the caucus chaos, there were rumblings that Iowa should lose its status.
Michael Tomasky of the New York Times made the case for Michigan and Florida as the first-in-line states.
And the candidates themselves probably wouldn't mind a change.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said weeks ago the caucuses were not "representative" — a nod to the elaborate system of caucuses that can exclude elderly voters, young families and those working the night shift.
What do you think?
Is there a strong case to be made to move away from Iowa being the nation's first contest in presidential elections?
Or do you side with Iowa being the traditional leadoff state? Since 1972, the Iowa caucus has been the first electoral test on the road to each party’s presidential nomination.
Tell us what you think by sending a Sound-Off and voting at meadvilletribune.com.