There is no question that the Iowa Democratic Party badly mismanaged the tabulation process of this week’s caucuses, but part of the problem was also a concerted effort by Trump supporters to flood the backup results hotline.
As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pointed out on Thursday night, once it was clear that the result-reporting app was on the fritz, Trump supporters from around the country started calling into a phone line meant only for Iowa precinct captains.
“In a closed conference call last night, state party officials reportedly talked amongst themselves about the fact that an excessive number of calls from outside the state started pouring into the phone lines that the party had set up in their headquarters in Des Moines to receive and tabulate the results from around the state,” the MSNBC host said.
Maddow added, “It is clear that that is not the only thing that went wrong with the tabulation of the Iowa caucus results on Monday. But that, it turns out, is one of the things that went wrong.”
— PoliticusUSA (@politicususa) February 7, 2020
When it became apparent this year’s app for reporting caucus results wasn’t going to work and precinct chairs decided they’d use the backup plan instead, which was to phone in results to the state party using this hotline, well, that backup plan failed, too, when the hotline was overwhelmed, when precinct chairs couldn’t get through and they ended up sitting there on hold for anywhere for half an hour, an hour, in some cases more than two hours until some of them gave up. In a closed conference call last night, state party officials reportedly talked amongst themselves about the fact that an excessive number of calls from outside the state started pouring into the phone lines that the party had set up in their headquarters in Des Moines to receive and tabulate the results from around the state. As “The New York Times” put it today, quote, the backup hotline number for caucus organizers to call in results was flooded with nuisance calls after the number was disseminated on social media. The Iowa Democratic Party treasurer told members of the part central committee on the closed conference call last night, quote, all the Trump people from around the country started calling and tearing everybody a new one. Since that initial reporting, NBC News and other news organizations have tracked down messages like these from pro-Trump political message boards online, which show Trump supporters in real-time on caucus night not only posting and reposting the hotline number that precinct chairs were supposed to use to call in results to the Iowa Democratic Party but explicitly encouraging one another to call and call and call again specifically to clog up the lines, specifically to mess with the Democrats’ ability to carry out the caucus. Quote, F them up. Keep clogging the lines. Keep clogging the lines. The results are not being reported because the lines are clogged. Keep clogging the lines. Now, it is clear that that is not the only thing that went wrong with the tabulation of the Iowa caucus results on Monday. But that, it turns out, is one of the things that went wrong. And it is the kind of thing we have seen before.
Democrats should be on high alert in New Hampshire
Just because Iowa is in the rearview mirror doesn’t mean Democrats shouldn’t be concerned about future contests, particularly the New Hampshire primary next week.
As Maddow pointed out on Thursday, New Hampshire experienced its own phone-jamming scandal in the 2002 Senate race, so there is some precedent in the state for nefarious election behavior.
Not to mention the fact that Trump and Republicans have pounced on the Iowa chaos in recent days, using it as a talking point for how Democrats are unable to manage one election, much less run the country.
They, of course, would love nothing more than to see something similar happen in New Hampshire, which is why officials in the state should be on high alert heading into next week’s primary.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.