The fragile edifice of the caucuses, which demoralized Democrats in search of a strong nominee to take on President Trump, crumbled under the weight of technology flops, lapses in planning, failed oversight by party officials, poor training, and a breakdown in communication between paid party leaders and volunteers out in the field, who had devoted themselves for months to the nation’s first nominating contest.
The wider scope of the malfunctions came to light partly because of a new set of reporting requirements, mandated by the Democratic National Committee after allies of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont pushed the national party to demand more transparency following his narrow loss to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Iowa caucuses.
The widespread lack of faith in the Iowa results has shaken many Americans’ confidence in their electoral system. Mr. Trump has reveled in the meltdown. Democrats have proposed abolishing caucuses and ending Iowa’s time at the front of the presidential nominating calendar.
Even as party officials scramble to contain the fallout, the full extent of the problems in Iowa is still not known.
An analysis by The New York Times revealed inconsistencies in the reported data for at least one in six of the state’s precincts. Those errors occurred at every stage of the tabulation process: in recording votes, in calculating and awarding delegates, and in entering the data into the state party’s database. Hundreds of state delegate equivalents, the metric the party uses to determine delegates for the national convention, were at stake in these precincts….
By then, it was clear that a catastrophe was taking place at the Iowa Events Center, a venue for auto shows and state wrestling tournaments that was serving as caucus central.
The state party’s phones were jammed. Users on the website 4chan had publicly posted the election hotline number and encouraged one another to “clog the lines.” The party’s volunteer phone operators also had to deflect calls from television news reporters in search of caucus results that were hours overdue….
Each precinct leader had 36 separate figures to report, along with two separate six-digit verification numbers — and there were more than 1,700 precincts, including the satellites.
In the chaos, caucus results collected by phone operators were riddled with errors. Dozens of the volunteers returned over the next three days to crosscheck them and input results from caucus worksheets that came in by email or through the app. One was delivered days later by the Postal Service.