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Buttigieg campaign demands Nevada Democratic Party fix ‘errors’ in count

Updated February 23, 2020 - 6:30 pm

The campaign of former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg sent a letter to the Nevada State Democratic Party asking it to release more voting data and correct “errors and inconsistencies” during the caucus count identified by the campaign.

The letter, dated Saturday, asks for the release of all early vote and in-person totals by precinct, a correction of any early vote and second alignment errors identified by any campaign and an explanation of anomalies in the data.

During the caucuses, voters stand with their preferred choice in what’s called a “first alignment.” If their candidate doesn’t reach at 15 percent minimum threshold, they must chose another candidate in what’s called the “second alignment.”

With about 90 percent of precincts reporting as of Sunday night, Buttigieg was third, well behind declared winner Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and about 300 delegates behind former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Currently our data shows that this is a razor-thin margin for second place in Nevada, and 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,” said Hari Sevugan, Buttigieg’s deputy campaign manager.

The Buttigieg campaign asked that the alleged errors be corrected before any final release of results.

State party responds

Nevada Democratic Party spokeswoman Molly Forgey released a statement Sunday morning in response:

“We laid out our early vote and caucus day processes step by step, and we communicated these processes to all campaigns. We are continuing to verify and to report results. We never indicated we would release a separate breakdown of early vote and in-person attendees by precinct and will not change our reporting process now. As laid out in our recount guidance, there is a formal method for requesting a challenge of results.”

In the letter from Buttigieg’s campaign, Michael Gaffney, the ballot access and delegates director, said the campaign received “more than 200 incident reports … including a few dozen related to how early vote factored into the in-person results.”

The complaints included: Early vote data not being delivered or being delivered during caucus; early votes not being used to determine viability; early preference cards being discarded if their first choice was not viable; early voters’ second choices not receiving votes in second alignment if their first choice was not viable; and early voters’ second choices being counted even though their first choices were viable.

There was also one case of early votes from the wrong precinct being used at a caucus, Gaffney said.

Gaffney also claimed that “many” precinct chairs incorrectly told voters that a candidate who wasn’t viable in the first alignment couldn’t become viable in the second alignment by absorbing voters whose own choices weren’t viable the first time around.

‘Deliver … transparency and accuracy’

“We know that you have worked tirelessly over the past few weeks to ensure that the caucuses would be a success,” Gaffney said. “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.”

One Las Vegas caucusgoer, JD Thiemann, told the Review-Journal that he went to a precinct at Guinn Middle School Saturday to caucus for Buttigieg.

The volunteer running Thiemann’s caucus did not read any instructions or announce any counts before asking voters to choose their first choice on their preference cards, he said.

The volunteer then collected the cards, appointed one of the caucusgoers as her secretary and asked the voter to count them.

Soon after, she announced Sanders as the caucus’ only viable candidate, passed out preference cards and asked voters to vote for whoever they wanted in a second alignment. Thiemann picked Buttigieg once more.

No vote totals, including those from early voting, were announced, he said.

Several campaign volunteers then intervened, Thiemann said. Eventually, a campaign volunteer for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ended up counting and entering the results into the Nevada Democratic Party’s iPad. Sanders received 12 county delegates, and Biden earned eight.

Contact Rory Appleton at rappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.

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