"Iowa Caucus: Easier Said Than Done for Democrats" by Luke Gover
Democrats have been yearning for the next general election as if it were the light at the end of a deep dark tunnel for years now. I can remember shortly after President Trump won in 2016, my liberal friends saw the year 2020 as eons down the road. Teachers were, in fact, crying as if their world was coming to an end. It was so unreal petitions were circling to separate the state of California from the rest of the United States. Some of it was understandable for even now, reading about action plans and other policies followed by a year in the coming decade causes me to feel as if I live in a fictional universe. Of course, four years is not very much at all in the grand scheme of time itself; yet all this time listening to Democrats lecture about election fairness, and upholding the greatest form of state legitimacy must have caused them to tucker out like the rabbit in “The Tortoise and the Hare”.
The Democratic Party offered its constituents a smorgasbord of candidates which made for fairly entertaining debates. Instead of rising above the riff-raff that was the Republican Party in 2016, it seemed as if they doubled down for the WWE style of debate. Tulsi Gabbard tore into Senator Harris, Senator Warren refused to shake Senator Sanders hand, and frontrunner Joe Biden was being yanked in every direction conceivable. While all this was occurring, political pundits took the opportunity to opine on who was going to win and who was going to fall. Finally, the time had come for candidates to walk the walk as caucus/primary season began. The media, the candidates, and the other major players put all hands on deck for the Iowa Caucus, except we (including the candidates) still do not understand fully who won.
For those who might not understand exactly how caucuses work, you’re not alone because the Democratic Party struggled too. Rounding errors, incorrect headcounts, votes decided by coin flips, clogged phone lines, poor instructions, the mistakes made during the voting process were numerous. Perhaps most significant were the rounding errors, which I describe below:
Rounding Errors- As close to an official result as we can get shows Pete Buttigieg just barely winning the vote by just 2 State Delegate Equivalents (SDEs). The Sanders campaign has already revealed fourteen accounts of their candidate losing delegates due to rounding errors.
To dive into the specifics in the most shallow manner possible, the amount of SDEs a person gets is calculated by taking the number of votes a candidate got in the precinct multiplied by the number of total delegates in the precinct. Then you divide that number by the total amount of voters at that particular caucus. The result is hardly ever a whole number, meaning rounding needs to take place, and this sometimes allows for a spare delegate to be left unallocated. Whoever gets this delegate is decided by which candidate was closest to earning their next whole delegate before rounding. Those who had to make this decision screwed up who got the extra delegate. Note it was not always a mistake made to screw Sanders, but without these errors, Buttigieg would likely not have the momentum he has now.
I hope this helped some understand how a caucus works, and why so many states have switched over to a primary voting system. The entire fate of the Democratic Party is in the hands of a few people who failed to do rather simple math.
Mudderway. So rounding is hard. Iowa rounding errors result in many SDE given to wrong Candidates. Daily KOS. February 8, 2020.