Iowa Democrats push back on Sanders claim of lost votes

The Iowa Democratic Party is denying accusations from Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders makes last-ditch fundraising appeal Sanders cuts press conference short in California The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE's campaign that it failed to staff scores of caucus sites as he and Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonJudge unseals documents on Trump University Clinton campaign chief: Voters aren't 'thinking about email servers' Sanders makes last-ditch fundraising appeal MORE remained locked in a too-close-to-call contest that spilled over into early Tuesday morning.

A Sanders aide told The Hill that the party did not send impartial staffers to 90 caucus sites and is now reaching out to candidates for help reporting the data. That would mean that precinct captains from the rival campaigns will have to self-report totals from the caucus, which could lead to arguments over a swath of precincts that could more than make up the margin between the two candidates.

But an Iowa Democratic Party official pushed back against the claims, telling The Hill that "the reports of precincts without chairs are inaccurate."

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"We have reached out to the campaigns for help in contacting the chairs for our outstanding precincts," the official said in a statement.

"We are not taking results from the campaigns. We are taking them from the chairs who are in these precincts." 

The Iowa Democrats did not elaborate as to why the campaigns may have a better handle on where the party's precinct chairs are than the party itself.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton led Sanders by a margin of 49.8 percent of the state's delegates compared to Sanders's 49.7 percent. So controversy over even the smallest number of precincts could be consequential.

The Democrats do not rely on paper ballots for caucuses — supporters instead physically cluster together and are counted by precinct chairs. That means there are no provisions for a recount on the Democratic side, since those events are not possible to recreate.

It's not the first time that the Sanders team has floated concerns about the process. One aide questioned the party's use of Microsoft software to count the votes, considering many of the software giant's employees have donated to Clinton.

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