Smooth sailing for Stanford caucus as Iowa Democratic Party scrambles to count results | News | Mountain View Online |


Smooth sailing for Stanford caucus as Iowa Democratic Party scrambles to count results

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren leave with the most support, Amy Klobuchar gains last-minute turnout

Mikey Fischer, a precinct captain for presidential candidate Andrew Yang, holds a sign before the start of an Iowa satellite caucus at Stanford University on Feb. 3. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

UPDATED: On Monday, Stanford University hosted one of the first out-of-state "satellite," or remote, caucuses that drew 30 Iowa voters and a diverse crowd of curious observers.

Out of the 11 candidates currently campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in November, only five candidates were represented among the Iowa voters at Stanford: Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang.

Thirty registered Iowa voters gathered at Stanford University's Haas Center for Public Service to participate in the caucus, a hands-on voting process where participants discuss and group together to help their preferred candidate grab delegates.

The results were already in view 15 minutes after the caucus commenced.

To the right side of the room, 24 Iowan voters were split into two groups, supporting Warren and Sanders. On the left, six Iowans were spread out between Biden, Yang and Klobuchar.

The Stanford location was just one of 87 satellite caucuses across the globe — from California to Tbilisi, Georgia — that was created in an effort by the Iowa Democratic Party to make the often time-consuming and inconvenient voting process more accessible.

And though there are subtle differences between satellite and in-state precinct caucuses, the overall process is the same: registered voters show up to a designated location to express their candidate preference by splitting into groups — known as the first alignment — and then regroup based on which group of candidate supporters were eliminated from the first round because they were "nonviable."

The viability of any candidate is determined by taking 15% of the total caucus participants.

Rounding a number up, the viability threshold of Monday night's caucus was five, meaning all candidates needed at least five voters to remain in the final round of grouping.

In the first round of grouping, the mostly young, college-educated set of participants quickly huddled together for Sanders or Warren. Fourteen voters stood with Sanders and 10 with Warren.

"I wasn't really surprised at the results," said Paula Sayago, a Stanford graduate and registered California voter who came to observe in hopes that it would guide her split decision between Warren and Biden. "Most of it is students, and it didn't really surprise anybody that students tend to lean more liberal."

But the two more progressive presidential candidates didn't speak for everyone.

Among the six Iowans left over, three voters went with Biden, two with Yang and one for Klobuchar: None of these groups were viable because they didn't reach the 15% threshold.

After captains of each candidate made their case on why the remaining voters should choose their candidate, members of nonviable groups only had 15 minutes to decide whether they should stick with their candidate and persuade voters of other nonviable groups to join, defect and go with any of the other four candidates, or give up their vote.

In the most surprising turn of events, Klobuchar's camp just barely met the 15% requirement, ending the night with five voters. Daniel Rebelsky, an 18-year-old freshman at Stanford, was the sole Biden supporter who defected to the Sanders preference group.

"I found the Bernie arguments the most compelling, but I was open to switching if I had a particularly compelling argument from someone else," said Rebelsky. "That could have included Klobuchar, Yang, Warren. ... In general, I would prefer not Trump, obviously."

If there was a singular moment of unison during the caucus, it was the Iowans' unanimous agreement that President Donald Trump had to be defeated in this year's election.

"Beat Trump on three," said a Warren supporter as she snapped a picture of a group of Sanders supporters.

Based on the Iowa Democratic Party's delegate selection plan, the results of the Stanford caucus each gave Warren and Sanders two delegates and Klobuchar one delegate.

After a prolonged delay from releasing any caucus data due to technical issues, the Iowa Democratic Party started reporting results on Tuesday afternoon. The latest results posted Friday morning were from all 1,765 sites, including all satellite caucuses.

The numbers reflect the strong Sanders and Warren support that was seen among Iowans at the Stanford caucus site, with the state respectively allocating 562.497 and 387.069 state delegates to the two candidates.

But the votes collected at Stanford don't represent the increasingly narrowing lead between Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has 564.012 delegates.

Initial reporting delays were caused by unforeseen software issues with the smartphone app caucus leaders used to send in the results.

"While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data," the Iowa Democratic Party said in a press release issued Tuesday. "We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed."

Many caucus leaders tried to phone in their results after running into issues with the app, but couldn’t get through to the Iowa Democratic Party due to jammed phone lines.

"It's very disappointing," said Sayago after hearing about the reporting errors. "It's just gonna make people feel unsure ... I don't know if it's the beginning of the end of the caucus system."

But caucus chairwoman Ahmi Dhuna and secretary Nova Meurice felt confident about the turnout of their first-ever caucus as hosts and participants.

"I'm kind of relieved," said Meurice, a Stanford junior studying comparative literature. "I'm glad everything went smoothly (and) nothing bad erupted."

With their jobs as caucus leaders complete, the two Stanford students now anxiously face the 2020 presidential elections, which remains a very uncertain road ahead for all Democrats.

While Meurice wonders if she should put "less emotional stock" in the 2020 elections as she did in 2016, when she poured hundreds of hours volunteering for the Sanders and Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns, Dhuna hasn't even had the time wrap her head around it.

"I might have a better answer to that question in a couple weeks when I can start thinking about the November election," Dhuna said.

Editor's note: Iowa caucus tally was updated at noon on Feb. 7, 2020.

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