The 2020 Iowa caucuses

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12:08 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

He waited an hour on hold to report results. Then he got disconnected.

Shawn Sebastian, a precinct secretary in Story County, was live on CNN as he simultaneously sat on hold with the Iowa Democrats, attempting to report his county's results.

Just a moment into his call to CNN, the party picked up — and then the line got disconnected.

"I have been on hold for over an hour with the Iowa Democratic Party," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. He said that they first tried to use an app, but that didn't work. They then turned to a hotline.

"We've been recommended to call in to the hotline, and the hotline has not been responsive," he said.

In that moment, someone on the other end of the hotline picked up.

"This is a real coincidence, Wolf. I just got off hold, just now, so I've got to get off the phone to report the results," he told CNN. He stayed on CNN's air as he began to report his county's results.

That's when the hotline went dead.

"They hung up on me," he said.

Watch:

11:07 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

Democratic campaign: "It's clear that something has gone wrong"

Iowa Democratic Party officials are hunkered down in their war room tonight, with presidential campaigns in the dark over the delay in the reporting of caucus results.

Officials from two Democratic campaigns tell CNN they were told the app to tabulate results had crashed. They said they had not been given any other information. 

Representatives of presidential campaigns are not invited into the state party’s war room, which is standard practice. But as the night wore on without word, “It’s clear that something has gone wrong.”

A state Democratic official who was in the war room a short time ago said the mood was calm and the officials were committed to get the count right.

“More data takes more time,” the official said.  

11:09 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

There was controversy at the 2016 Iowa caucuses, too

Gene J. Puskar/AP
Gene J. Puskar/AP

Results from tonight's Iowa caucuses are delayed, with Iowa's Democratic party chalking the extra time up to "quality checks" and the party's decision to report three totals this year.

Voting issues aren't new when it comes to the Iowa caucuses. In the last presidential election, Iowa faced a controversy surrounding apparent confusion about the voting process.

Unlike a traditional primary, in which voters cast ballots, caucuses all take place out in the open: People show up to their precinct and physically move into designated parts of a room to show their preference for a certain candidate. Delegates are awarded based on those who reach a certain threshold of support by the end of the night.

In 2016, the state Democratic Party was forced to review the caucuses after the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders flagged issues with the process -- specifically the way in which a winner is declared and coin flips.

The winner of the caucuses is decided by state delegate equivalents, tied to a math formula, not head counts. Coin flips, or "games of chance," are used in rare circumstances at precinct caucuses to adjudicate ties or resolve issues created by rounding errors.

At stake during these precinct-level coin flips is the one remaining slot in that precinct for a campaign to send a delegate to attend that precinct's county convention. Coin flips are not used to decide which candidate wins a state convention delegate or national convention delegate.

The 2020 caucuses proceeded under new rules and procedures, including the addition of "satellite caucuses," as part of the state's effort to make the process more accessible.

11:01 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

There's nervousness at Biden's election night party

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images

As people streamed into Joe Biden’s election night party at Drake University, attendees were nervously awaiting results.

Biden had not met the viability threshold in a Johnston precinct where Melanie Weatherall, a 50-year-old former nurse, said she caucused.

She said she’s “very discouraged, because people aren’t waking up -- they don’t understand.”

“I keep talking to people until I’m blue in the face, because none of them can beat Trump or Republicans,” Weatherall said. “So we’re going to be stuck with Donald Trump another four years.”

Tom Rial, a precinct captain for Biden in suburban West Des Moines, said he was nervous. In his precinct, he said, the top five contenders were virtually tied, with Buttigieg taking three of the 11 available delegates and Biden, Klobuchar, Warren and Sanders taking two each. 

He said he was surprised to hear from friends in more rural precincts that Buttigieg had been strong.

“I don’t know. I don’t know how things are going,” he said. “It looks like a bunch of ties.”

CNN's Arlette Saenz live from Biden's election night party:

11:01 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

2020 results are coming in far later than previous years

Tom Brenner/Getty Images
Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Zero precincts are reporting in the Iowa caucuses so far.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noted that at 10 p.m. ET in 2016, there were 70% of precincts reporting

CNN’s David Chalian said, “It is hard when you look at the clock and you see its 10:16 (p.m.) Wolf, to not begin to wonder if something maybe askew.”

The Iowa Democratic Party said in a statement: “We are doing our quality control checks, making sure the numbers are accurate. People are still caucusing, we’re working to report results soon.”

Chalian noted: “We’re not getting a sense of how long the quality control take, what exactly is the quality control process that the party is undertaking right now.”

“This is far later than when we’ve seen reports in Iowa caucuses past of the vote coming in,” Chalian said. “And so now, the party, they're sticking to this notion of we’re doing quality control checks. I'm not sure how much longer they can just sort of say that and not have questions surrounding whether or not is there some reporting problem, is there something askew, or is everything fine and they’re just being super cautious.”

CNN’s John King noted, “There are more candidates this time, so give some grace, but to your point, this came in pretty quick. This came in pretty quick. And it was very close, so it’s not like it was a blow out. It’s not like it was easy to count.”

Hear analysis on the delay:

10:55 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

Iowa Democrats: Delay is "due to quality checks"

Gene J. Puskar/AP
Gene J. Puskar/AP

Iowa Democratic Party Communications Director Mandy McClure said the delay in the results is "due to quality checks" and the party's decision to report three totals this year.

"Integrity of the results is paramount," McClure said.

Here's the full statement:

"The integrity of the results is paramount. We have experienced a delay in the results due to quality checks and the fact that the IDP is reporting out three data sets for the first time. What we know right now is that around 25% of precincts have reported, and early data indicates turnout is on pace for 2016." 

About the three numbers: Iowa Democrats are releasing more information about caucus results than usual this year. There are three sets of numbers we're expecting:

  • State delegates won: Each precinct sends delegates to county conventions, who then send delegates to the state convention. The "state delegate equivalents" — the number that'll be the focus tonight — are the estimated number of delegates candidates have won to the state convention based on their results in each precinct.
  • The first alignment: The state Democratic Party will release the total number of people at each precinct that lined up with each candidate at the start of the caucuses.
  • The second alignment: Then, after realignment — the process where those who fall short of 15% are eliminated, with their supporters either choosing a different candidate to back or going home — the state party will release those raw vote totals as well.

Hear Chalian's analysis: 'They're buying time'

10:47 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

The results are still delayed. Here's why that could be a concern.

Matt Rourke/AP
Matt Rourke/AP

We're still awaiting results from Iowa's Democratic party — even though nearly an hour ago a source told CNN numbers would be ready around 10 p.m. ET.

CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston said the delay could be concerning.

"I have confidence in them, but I would say this: It is bringing in some concern and certainly wondering about what is exactly happening now behind the scenes," he said.

Remember: Iowa Democrats are releasing more information about caucus results than usual this year.

There are three sets of numbers we're expecting:

  • State delegates won: Each precinct sends delegates to county conventions, who then send delegates to the state convention. The "state delegate equivalents" — the number that'll be the focus tonight — are the estimated number of delegates candidates have won to the state convention based on their results in each precinct.
  • The first alignment: The state Democratic Party will release the total number of people at each precinct that lined up with each candidate at the start of the caucuses.
  • The second alignment: Then, after realignment — the process where those who fall short of 15% are eliminated, with their supporters either choosing a different candidate to back or going home — the state party will release those raw vote totals as well.

Chalian: Something is clearly off from the plan

10:36 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

Democratic campaigns are beginning to worry about delay in results

Some Democratic presidential campaigns have started to worry about the delay in reporting results in Iowa.

An aide to a top Democratic campaign said their operation doesn’t “know what’s going on” but “something is clearly up.” 

“It just eats time,” the aide said.

And an aide to former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg also said they were worried about the delay in reporting results.

10:30 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

Iowa Democratic Party: "We're working to report results soon"

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images

An Iowa Democratic party official said the team is "working to report results soon."

“We are doing our quality control checks, making sure the numbers are accurate. People are still caucusing, we’re working to report results soon," the official said.

Earlier, before 10 p.m. ET, a source a Democratic state party official told CNN's David Chalian that they "should have something near top of the hour."

CNN's David Chalian explains more: