Nevada Caucuses Repeat Errors of Iowa Contest

Nevada Caucuses Repeat Errors of Iowa Contest

The final results of the Nevada Democratic caucuses were released on Monday, and the data appears to contain errors and inconsistencies similar to those that plagued the contests in Iowa a few weeks ago.

An analysis by The New York Times found flaws in the results of at least 9 percent of precincts, including some instances in which delegates appeared to have been given to the wrong candidates.

Like Iowa, the state party in Nevada released raw vote totals for its more than 2,000 precincts for the first time this year, allowing the public to check the math that determines which candidates get the delegates they need to win the Democratic nomination.

Shortly after the final caucus results were released, the Nevada State Democratic Party chairman, William McCurdy, said in a statement that the state should consider abandoning caucuses.

“I believe we need to start having a serious conversation ahead of next cycle about the limitations of the caucus process and the rules around it,” Mr. McCurdy said. “It’s time for our state party and elected leaders to look at shifting to a primary process moving forward.”

Here are some examples of the errors uncovered in the analysis.

Vote counts are inconsistent: 120 precincts

The Nevada caucuses took place over two rounds of voting, and candidates had to meet a certain threshold of votes to reach “viability” and win delegates. Nevada allowed early voting for the first time this year, and the volunteers who ran the caucuses were told to count early voters in each precinct as if they were present.

A common error was an increase in the vote totals in the second round of voting. In most cases, this was an increase of only a handful of votes, but some precincts recorded a large jump.



Candidate First Alignment Final Alignment Delegates
Candidate First Align. Final Align. Delegates
Sanders
23

41

3


Biden
19

29

2


Klobuchar
14

28

2


Warren
16

26

2


Buttigieg
12

18

1


Steyer
6

6

0


Gabbard
1

1

0


Total
91

149

10


The vote totals matter for calculating viability. In the precinct above, total attendance recorded for the first alignment was 91, which should mean a viability threshold of 14. But the total attendance for the second alignment was recorded as 149, which should make the viability threshold 23. It’s hard to say which of the two counts is correct.

This error could be the result of confusion about how to record the preferences of the early voters, or it could be a simple data entry mistake.

Candidates without enough supporters won delegates: 21 precincts

Candidates had to meet the viability threshold again in the final round of voting to win delegates.



Candidate First Alignment Final Alignment Delegates
Candidate First Align. Final Align. Delegates
Sanders
53

57

9


Warren
13

17

3


Steyer
11

13

2


Biden
2

0

0


Buttigieg
5

0

0


Gabbard
1

0

0


Klobuchar
3

0

0


Total
88

87

14


In this example, from a precinct in Washoe County, the minimum votes required for viability was 14. There were only 13 supporters in the group for billionaire businessman Tom Steyer, but he still received two delegates.

Caucusgoers who chose Mr. Steyer should have had to make another choice, or to persuade members of other nonviable groups to join them. But since they did not, it’s impossible to know which candidate they might have chosen or how those choices would have changed the results.

Delegates calculated improperly: At least 43 precincts

The share of votes a candidate wins determines how many delegates they get. Caucus rules instruct volunteers to round up or down to the nearest whole number if necessary when awarding delegates. The process becomes more complicated if the rounding does not work out cleanly, and at many precincts, volunteers appear to have been tripped up by the rounding rules. But some fumbled even the most straightforward delegate math.



Candidate First Alignment Final Alignment Delegates
Candidate First Align. Final Align. Delegates
Sanders
21

26

3


Steyer
23

26

3


Buttigieg
19

23

4


Klobuchar
14

19

0


Biden
11

0

0


Warren
7

0

0


Total
95

94

10


This precinct in Nye County had 10 delegates to award. Senator Amy Klobuchar got 20 percent of the votes, which means she should have received two delegates. Instead, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., was awarded two more delegates than he should have been, and Ms. Klobuchar received none.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont declared victory in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday with a sizable lead, and it does not appear that the errors in the results were large enough to have changed that outcome. Mr. Buttigieg, who trailed Mr. Biden in third place, called on the party to review inconsistencies in 200 precincts.

Methodology

The Times analyzed the most recent caucus results released by the Nevada State Democratic Party on Feb. 24. Nevada has a total of 2,097 precincts, and 1,736 precincts had registered Democrats ahead of Caucus Day, according to the state party. The error rate was calculated using the total precinct count.

The analysis checked for precincts that awarded delegates to candidates who were not viable, those that inaccurately calculated delegate math, those that awarded fewer delegates than they were allotted and those that had more votes in the final round than in the first.

The Times used the party’s caucus guide and training materials for guidance on caucus rules. We did not examine caucuses with only one county delegate to award because those contests follow different rules.

The number of votes needed for viability for each precinct was calculated based on total votes in the first round.

The part of our analysis looking at delegate math was conducted on a subset of precincts in which it was possible to make the calculations. That analysis did not include situations in which a tiebreaker may have been necessary to award delegates.

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