Republican Iowa Senator Says She 'Will Always Defend Our Caucus Process' After Major Results Delay

GOP Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa defended her state's complicated caucusing process on Tuesday, as many Democrats and Republicans criticized and mocked the system following major delays in releasing the Democratic Party's presidential nominee results due to reporting "inconsistencies."

Ernst made the remarks in a Tuesday interview with Fox News show America's Newsroom, reaffirming her support for the Iowa caucuses as many argued the process should be changed in the future. While the Democratic results are typically released within a couple hours, the reporting process was significantly delayed on Monday evening and the Iowa Democratic Party plans to officially release "most" of the final results by 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

"Well, Iowa is a wonderful place to be, and I will always defend our caucus process," Ernst noted. She then went on to point to the introduction of a new app that precincts were supposed to use to report their official numbers. Many users reported issues with the app, which contributed to the delay in reporting official results.

Joni Ernst
Joni Ernst heads back to the Senate floor following a recess in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on February 3. Ernst said that Iowa caucus system is a"very important part of the process." Samuel Corum/Getty

"What we have seen is the involvement of some new technology that has failed quite badly," Ernst said. "But again, the Iowa caucus system—politicians coming out and really interacting face to face with voters—[is a] very important part of the process and narrowing down who that candidate should be."

The GOP lawmaker then argued that people should "remember" it's beneficial to both political parties. "It's bipartisan," she said. "Iowa launched Barack Obama a number of years ago as well as really giving a lot of support to President Trump."

Iowa has an outsized role in presidential elections due to its first-in-the-nation status when it comes to showing concrete support for contenders seeking both parties' nominations. As Ernst noted, former President Obama outperformed in Iowa in 2008, helping him build significant momentum during the following primaries and caucuses. This was seen as key to helping him secure the Democratic nomination.

Ahead of the Iowa caucuses this year, some progressive lawmakers raised criticisms of a predominantly white and small state in the middle of the country having such a significant influence on the presidential election. According to the most recent census data, Iowa is about 90 percent white, making it the fifth whitest state in the country. It also ranks 32nd out of 50 states in terms of population size.

But Iowans of both parties are generally against ending the caucusing process. If the state were to transition to a traditional primary format, it would almost certainly lose its ability to be the first state to publicly decide who to back for the presidential nomination. As a result, most Iowans hope to maintain their influence over the national election by keeping the complicated process in place.

"It is nearly guaranteed that New Hampshire and other states would pressure the DNC much more heavily to rotate Iowa out of first-in-the-nation status," professor Mack Shelly, chair of the department of political science at Iowa State University, told Newsweek. "Losing that first slot is fiercely opposed, and feared, by just about everyone in Iowa."