What went wrong for Democrats at the Iowa caucuses?

VIDEO: REUTERS
VIDEO: REUTERS

DES MOINES (REUTERS) - Monday's Iowa caucuses had been expected to narrow the wide field of candidates for the US Democratic presidential nomination and provide greater clarity on who may wind up as Republican President Donald Trump's challenger in the November presidential election.

But the night ended in confusion and anger among Democrats and mockery from Republicans, as the results were delayed.

HOW IS THE IOWA CAUCUS SUPPOSED TO WORK?

The caucus in the Midwestern farm state of Iowa is the first contest in the Democratic presidential nominating contest.

The caucuses differ from primary elections in how they are held. Instead of casting a paper or electronic ballot for a preferred candidate, registered Democrats gather in groups to tally which candidate they support. To be viable, a candidate must gain support from at least 15 per cent of the attendees at a given caucus meeting.

The results are sent to the state party, which then calculates how many delegates each presidential candidate receives.

But there were three key problems.

1) THE MOBILE APP

A new mobile app for recording the results of the caucuses - held in more than 1,600 schools, community centers and other locations - was deployed this year.

The app recorded data accurately but only partial data, Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price said on Tuesday (Feb 4). The app had a coding problem that was later fixed, he said in a statement.

The party said earlier that the problem with the app was not the result of a hack or intrusion.

Some local officials also reported having trouble using the app to report results.

2) BUSY PHONE LINES

When some of those officials turned to the traditional method of reporting results - the phone - they said they were put on hold and could not get through for hours.

"We had people with their phones on speaker who were stuck on hold from 9 through at least 11," said Linn County Democratic Party chairman Bret Nilles.

3) A NEW WRINKLE: MORE SETS OF RESULTS

This year, Iowa changed how its caucus results are reported to the public, expanding it from one set to three.

 
 

On Jan 16, the state Democratic Party announced it would release three sets of caucus results, in order to provide greater transparency - but making the reporting of results more complex. As well as the number of state delegate equivalents each candidate received, the party is publishing raw data.

WHEN WILL THE RESULTS COME AND WHY DO THEY MATTER?

The head of Iowa's Democratic party expects results "as soon as possible on Tuesday."

Iowa has 41 delegates out of the 1,991 needed to secure the nomination. By comparison, Texas has 228 and California has 415.

But its first-in-the-nation status gives Iowa outsized clout in the White House nominating race - and produces a strong reaction when its nominating process hits snags.