Sanders Campaign to Request Recount After Iowa Recanvassing Shrinks Buttigieg's Lead

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign is expected to formally request a recount of some caucus precincts in Iowa after results released after a post-caucus recanvassing narrowed former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg's lead over Sanders to a margin of 0.004 percentage points.

While the current delegate count remains the same—14 for Buttigieg and 12 for Sanders—the small margin between the two in the number of state delegate equivalents makes the Sanders campaign hopeful that a recount could help allocate another Iowa state delegate to the Sanders camp.

"While it is clear that Sen. Sanders won the popular vote in Iowa by 6,000 votes, the recanvass process reduced the State Delegate Equivalent by 97 percent," Sanders' Senior Adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement Tuesday. "We now believe a recount will give Sen. Sanders enough State Delegate Equivalents to put him over the top by that metric as well. We want to thank the people of Iowa, our supporters, our volunteers and everyone who made this possible."

Newsweek reached out to the Buttigieg campaign for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

While a recanvass involves making sure a precinct reported the correct totals from its worksheets, a recount drills deeper and requires a dedicated count of voter preference cards, upon which caucus-goers indicated a first and second choice for president.

Approximately two weeks after the completion of the Iowa caucuses, the final results as published by the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) were still a matter of contention.

bernie sanders
After recanvassing results narrowed the gap in Iowa caucus results between former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday, Sanders' campaign indicated it would ask for a full recount of some Iowa precincts. Alex Wong/Getty

Tabulation of the results was hampered the night of the caucus by the failure of an app which was supposed to make reporting easier for precincts. Instead, the app was botched by what IDP chair Troy Price referred to as a "coding issue."

"The bottom line is that we hit a stumbling block on the back end of the reporting of the data," Price said at a February news conference, "but the one thing I want you to know: we know this data is accurate. We also have a paper trail and documentation that we'll have been able to use to help verify the results."

An analog back-up system, which relied on precincts phoning results into headquarters, also suffered lags and lapses with some precinct workers reporting being left on hold for hours.

In the wake of the caucuses, Price resigned his position with the IDP. "While it is my desire to stay in this role and see this process through to completion," Price said in his February resignation letter, "I do believe it is time for the Iowa Democratic Party to begin looking forward, and my presence in my current role makes that more difficult."

Buttigieg declared himself the winner in Iowa before all the results had been released, telling supporters that his campaign was moving on to the New Hampshire primary "victorious."

"So we don't know all the results," Buttigieg said after the caucuses, "but we know by the time it's all said and done, Iowa, you have shocked the nation."

Sanders waited until 97 percent of the precincts had reported before proclaiming himself the winner.

"When 6,000 more people come out for you in an election than your nearest opponent, we here in northern New England call that a victory," Sanders said.

Sanders defeated Buttigieg in the New Hampshire primary by almost 4,000 votes although both candidates received nine delegates.

Nevada is expected to be the home of the next Democratic caucus, where poll numbers show Sanders substantially ahead of the pack with 35 percent of those surveyed giving Sanders their support. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren held second place with 16 percent and Buttigieg took third with 15 percent.