Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign sent a letter to the Nevada Democratic Party on Saturday alleging numerous “errors” and “inconsistencies” in the vote-counting process behind the state’s 2020 Democratic caucuses earlier that day.
In the letter to NVDP Chairman William McCurdy II, Buttigieg’s national ballot access and delegates director, Michael Gaffney, called on party officials to release early and in-person vote totals by precinct, correct alignment “errors” identified by the campaign and explain so-called anomalies in the data.
“Given how close the race is between second and third place, we ask that you take these steps before releasing any final data,” Gaffney wrote.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) soared to victory on Saturday, winning the state’s Democratic caucuses by a hefty margin. As of Sunday afternoon, with roughly 60% of precincts reporting, former Vice President Joe Biden was in second with 19.6% of the votes and Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was not far behind him with 15.3%.
Nevada saw a massive turnout of early voters in the days leading up to the formal caucuses. Buttigieg’s campaign said in its letter that early voting was “a success” in helping more people participate in the process. But, Gaffney alleged, the process of integrating the early votes into the results of the in-person caucuses was “plagued with errors and inconsistencies.”
In some locations, early voting data was not delivered or was not properly incorporated to determine a candidate’s viability, according to Buttigieg’s campaign.
Unlike primaries, in which voters cast a single ballot and the winner is determined by who receives the most votes, caucuses are used to award county convention delegates to viable candidates. The number of county convention delegates determines how many national pledged delegates each candidate will receive.
During the first alignment of a caucus, participants gather in groups based on the candidate they support. Candidates often need at least 15% of caucusgoers in each precinct to be considered viable. Caucusgoers who choose a viable candidate in the first alignment may not change their preference. Those in nonviable groups (either a candidate or uncommitted) can choose to switch groups during the second alignment or bow out.
Buttigieg’s campaign called on the Nevada Democrats to release electronic or hard copies of worksheets used to calculate the results during the caucuses. The campaign also requested that the party address “general issues pertaining to the realignment process.”
“We know that you have worked tirelessly over the past few weeks to ensure that the Caucuses would be a success,” Gaffney wrote. “We only ask that you take the time in the next 24-48 hours to deliver on that goal by offering the level of transparency and accuracy that you have promised throughout this process.”
A spokesman for the NVDP told HuffPost in a statement that the party “never indicated” it would release a separate breakdown of the early vote and in-person attendees by precinct and that it would not change its reporting process.
“We laid out our early vote and Caucus Day processes step by step and we communicated these processes to all campaigns,” according to the statement. “We are continuing to verify and to report results.”
“As laid out in our recount guidance, there is a formal method for requesting a challenge of results,” the statement continued.
Buttigieg’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it plans to formally challenge the results.
In a statement to HuffPost, Buttigieg deputy campaign manager Hari Sevugan said data shows a “razor thin margin” for second place in Nevada.
“Due to irregularities and a number of unresolved questions we have raised with the Nevada Democratic Party, it’s unclear what the final results will be,” he said.
The allegations brought forward by Buttigieg’s campaign followed what had widely been hailed as a relatively seamless and successful caucuses process after the disastrous Iowa caucuses earlier this month. Results of the Iowa caucuses were significantly delayed due to technical difficulties caused by a third-party app, which incorrectly reported some data, as well as the state party’s failed backup strategy for mitigating these issues.
In response to the chaos, the NVDP announced it had canceled plans to use that app during its own caucuses. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez demanded a recanvass of the Iowa results. Soon after, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price stepped down amid calls for his resignation.
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