The Iowa Democratic Party has found someone else to blame for the meltdown of their caucuses this week: supporters of President Donald Trump.
No winner has been declared four days after the caucuses took place in 1,600 locations throughout Iowa on Monday night. Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez on Thursday called for a recanvass of the results, which he explained would involve a site-by-site review.
Mandy McClure, communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party, told NBC News on Thursday that the hotline used to report results received “an unusually high volume of inbound phone calls to its caucus hotline, including supporters of President Trump.”
“The unexplained, and at times hostile, calls contributed to the delay in the Iowa Democratic Party’s collection of results, but in no way affected the integrity of information gathered or the accuracy of data sets reported,” McClure said in a statement.
An NBC News investigation determined that “a politics-focused section of the fringe 4chan message board repeatedly posted the phone number for the Iowa Democratic Party.”
“Uh oh how unfortunate it would be for a bunch of mischief makers to start clogging the lines,” one anonymous user reportedly commented in response to a post saying the hold times were already “[v]ery long.”
As the NBC News report noted, the number of the hotline is public and can be easily discovered by Google search.
The Trump campaign laughs off Iowa caucus allegations against supporters
Some of the prank callers hung up as soon as they got through, others professed their love for Trump and yet others bashed the Democratic Party, according to the report.
“All the Trump people from around the country started calling and tearing everybody a new one,” party treasurer Ken Sager told party insiders in a call Wednesday.
An unnamed Iowa Democratic official confirmed to Reuters on Thursday that the party received an “unusually high volume of inbound calls” to its caucus hotline on Monday night from “callers who would hang up immediately after being connected, supporters of President Trump who called to express their displeasure with the Democratic Party and Iowans looking to confirm details.”
The Trump campaign on Thursday denied any knowledge of the skullduggery.
“We don’t know anything about this, but perhaps Democrats should consider using an app that works. It’s laughable that they would try to blame Trump for their own incompetence,” said Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director.
Iowa State Party Chairman Troy Price apologized “deeply” to reporters on Tuesday for the disastrous aftermath of the caucuses. But the party has yet to offer an explanation for the failure of their caucus, the first voting test for the 2020 Democratic primary field.
Numerous news reports and experts have said a technical problem with a new mobile app, along with user confusion related to a lack of advance training, played a role in delaying the release of the results.
According to an analysis published Thursday morning by The New York Times, the data itself is also suspect. With 97 percent of Iowa’s 1,765 precincts counted, more than 100 reported results that were “internally inconsistent,” missing data or not possible under the Iowa caucus’ rules, the Times said.
The Times said the errors suggest the caucus organizers struggled to follow the rules or adopt additional reporting requirements introduced since 2016 and that the Iowa Democratic Party failed to validate the results before making them public.
The results don’t add up
Members of The Times’ statistical analysis team discovered circumstances in which votes didn’t add up, while in other cases precincts were shown allotting the wrong number of delegates to candidates.
Meanwhile, the analysis found discrepancies between the results reported by the Iowa Democratic Party and those reported by some precincts.
The Times’ team saw no evidence that the errors were biased in favor of a particular candidate. But the closeness of the race means even minor mistakes could cast a pall of doubt over the results.
A spokeswoman for the Iowa Democratic Party told the Times that the party reported the results given to it by the precincts.
Based on the results, former Vice President Joe Biden was behind former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sens. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, and Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat.
Buttigieg, who would be the first openly gay president if elected, had 26.2 percent of state delegate equivalents, the data traditionally reported to determine the winner. Sanders was closing in with 26.1 percent, Warren was at 18.2 percent, and Biden garnered 15.8 percent.
Sanders was slightly ahead of Buttigieg in the Iowa popular vote, which is not used to determine the delegates who will formally choose the nominee at the Democratic National Convention in July.
(Reuters contributed to this report.)