Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign stop at the Rochester Opera House Thursday in Rochester, N.H. (John Minchillo/AP)
Amid growing reports of irregularities in the Iowa Democratic caucuses, Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign said late Thursday that the state party had rebuffed its initial requests for paper records tallying the votes in each precinct that were used to determine Hillary Clinton’s narrow victory.
Sanders’s supporters have complained in recent days that some caucuses, which were administered by the Iowa Democratic Party, were disorganized. In at least one case, Sanders’s backers say, results were not reported accurately to the state party.
“We want to figure this out in the most diplomatic way possible,” said Rania Batrice, Sanders’s Iowa communications director.
The campaign has not retained a lawyer for this matter, officials said. They declined to discuss what options they may have to protest the results.
“We’re not contemplating a lawsuit,” campaign spokesman Mike Briggs said. “We are assessing the situation.”
The caucus problems were first reported by the Des Moines Register. The newspaper published a scathing editorial Thursday under the headline, “Something Smells in the Democratic Party.” The editorial called Monday’s caucuses a “debacle,” assailing party leaders for declining to review the results in which two-tenths of 1 percent separated Sanders from Clinton.
“Too many questions have been raised,” the editorial asserted. “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.”
Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, had lost a wide lead in polls in the weeks leading up to the caucuses, and a loss would have been a damaging setback. She hailed the Iowa results during an appearance in New Hampshire hours after her victory was declared.
The Clinton campaign’s Iowa state director, Matt Paul, said Thursday that it appeared the Sanders campaign was attempting to “disparage results that don’t come out in their favor.” Paul said that “there have been a handful of instances — similar to issues raised in every previous caucus — where our reporting shows Secretary Clinton should have been awarded more delegates, and we will continue to resolve them with the Iowa Democratic Party.” However, he said, none of the discrepancies “would alter the result of the caucus.”
A spokesman for the Iowa Democratic Party, Sam Lau, said Thursday that the party was reviewing the concerns of Sanders and Clinton. He said the caucuses are “a unique event that involved more than 171,000 Iowans and their neighbors at a specific time and place, and thus they cannot be re-created or recounted. That being said, we are working with all campaigns on individual concerns they are bringing to us and addressing them on a case-by-case basis. Just yesterday, we met with the Sanders campaign, who brought us a small amount of specific concerns, and the Clinton campaign has also asked us a small amount of questions. We will look into these concerns and reach out to our county party leadership with any questions.”
Early reports of caucus problems led Sanders’s campaign staff, including Batrice, to try to “double- and triple-check every precinct so we can see what all the discrepancies are,” Batrice said. “We have found some already and are gathering that data over the next several days, and then we’ll see where we get,” Batrice said in an interview Thursday. She said the Sanders camp was disappointed that the party had so far declined to provide the campaign with official paper records that would show each precinct’s tally before it was entered Monday night into a computer application.
In lieu of those official paper records, Batrice said the campaign is contacting every one of its precinct captains to reconstruct their records of caucus results.
John Wagner in Rochester, N.H., contributed to this report.