DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) – With nearly two-thirds of the results finally in, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg leads the Iowa caucuses with about 27% of the state delegate count, followed closely by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at 25%.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren came in third so far with 18%, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden with nearly 16% and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar at about 13%.
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price told reporters hastily gathered in Des Moines Tuesday afternoon that more results will be released as they are available. It was not clear how much those numbers might change as new results are posted.
The Democratic Party officially declares the winner of the Iowa caucuses based on what are called “delegate equivalents” – which is the number of delegates a candidate will take to the party’s state convention based on a mathematical formula weighted to compensate rural counties for their population disadvantage compared with urban counties. This functions somewhat like the Electoral College at the federal level.
The party also released raw totals based on the 62% of precincts reporting, which generally matched the delegate count lineup, except that Sanders had the largest percentage of supporters in the first and second alignments while Buttigieg had the second largest counts, followed by Warren, Biden and Klobuchar.
Tuesday afternoon’s partial release of caucus results came nearly 24 hours after the caucuses began Monday night, when glitches in the reporting system meant no numbers were reported before Democratic presidential candidates began heading for New Hampshire to campaign in that state’s primary, set for next week.
Iowa Democratic Party officials said “inconsistencies” in numbers coming in Monday night from precinct caucuses were to blame for the party’s delay in publicly reporting statewide results of the closely watched race.
As of Tuesday morning, the Iowa Democratic Party was still had not reported any official results from Monday night’s 1,678 precinct caucuses, saying party officials were focusing on what caused the delay and assuring the numbers are accurate.
Precinct caucus results were coming into Democratic Party headquarters from a newly created mobile app as well as from caucus leaders who phoned in results or sent cellphone photos of tabulation sheets, and party officials had problems matching the different numbers Monday night.
“As precinct caucus results started coming in,” Price said in a statement released Tuesday morning, the party “ran them through an accuracy and quality check. It became clear that there were inconsistencies with the reports. The underlying cause of these inconsistencies was not immediately clear, and required investigation, which took time.”
While problems with the numbers were investigated, the party began taking data from caucus sites by phone and entering the numbers manually.
“This took longer than expected,” Price said.
There were conflicting accounts Monday night about the source of the inconsistencies, including reports that precinct leaders were not adequately trained on the party’s mobile app for reporting numbers, which was used for the first time this year.
Although party officials had insisted Monday night that the reporting app had not been hacked, or that it crashed, Price said Tuesday the app was not giving complete data.
“As part of our investigation, we determined with certainty that the underlying data collected via the app was sound,” he said. “While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed.”
The Iowa Democratic Party will have a paper trail to verify results reported from Monday’s precincts caucuses: For the first time, caucus participants signed a card with their preferred candidate on the front and their second choice on the back if necessary. These cards will be turned into the Iowa Democratic Party in the event a recount is needed.
Party officials arranged a telephone conference call Monday night with the campaign representatives, but the party made no predictions about when results would be known, so candidates began making appearances at their post-caucus rallies to give what might have been victory speeches before heading off to New Hampshire.
In addition to delegate equivalents, this year for the first time the Iowa Democratic Party also released raw numbers showing how much support presidential candidates have among caucus participants. Those raw numbers will be based on two separate counts at each caucus location. The “first alignment” of supporters for each candidate was followed by a second count after participants whose favorite candidate did not have the support of 15% of voters at that caucus lined up behind a candidate who did have 15%.