DES MOINES, Iowa — The chair of Polk Co. (Iowa) Democrats described in detail how problems with the caucus results reporting system changed the tone on the night of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus.
“We had a lot to celebrate about and most people thought it was a really good caucus process, the only time it really got bungled was in the reporting last night. Big, big issue.” said Sean Bagniewski, chair of the Polk. Co. Democrats.
Bagniewski said the failures of a new app-based results reporting system were compounded by phone lines that weren’t answered for hours at a time.
“People tried to use the app first, in many cases they couldn’t get it to work or they couldn’t log in, so our recommendation to everybody was just to call it in. When people were trying to call it in, the phone line wasn’t working. That was the biggest problem, they couldn’t report it by app or by phone,” Bagniewski said. “The lowest wait time we heard on the phones was an hour and half. In many cases it was two hours; in cases for the county party, we were hung up on when we called up.”
Bagniewski said problems with the app were already showing up days before the caucus.
“We’ve done 45 trainings over the past couple of months. As of Thursday, we were hearing from most of our precinct chairs that they couldn’t get the app to work. Our response to all of them was just to report by phone like we’ve done every other year,” Bagniewski said. “The (state party) response was they had a dedicated staff member to take care of all the app issues. Which is fine, which is good, but one person for 1,700 users for a new app probably wasn’t enough.”
In Polk County, Bagniewski said their results were recorded on paper and signed off by the campaigns.
“We like good old fashioned paper,” he said.
Bagniewski said turnout was strong in Polk County, along with high numbers of volunteers, who largely reported successful nights on the ground.
“The first timers, the people in the room and the volunteers all had really good nights, and we’re hearing from our folks in Polk County that it really was a great caucus, they loved it,” Bagniewski said. “The reporting stumbled, but if we have tens of thousands of new voters in Iowa who are Democrats now, that’s a success for us.”