No, the Iowa Democratic Party did not release raw vote totals for the 2008 caucuses

Fox News analyst Howard Kurtz accused Iowa Democratic Party leaders of hypocrisy and "stonewalling" today:

After the ridiculously close squeaker in the Iowa caucuses, the state’s Democratic Party said it couldn’t release the raw vote totals for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

That simply isn’t how they do business, party officials insisted. […]

But it turns out that hasn’t been the practice in past elections.

Kurtz then posted what he claimed are "raw vote totals" for Barack Obama, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden from the 2008 Iowa caucuses. He took the numbers from CNN’s website.

Those numbers do not reflect the number of Iowans who caucused for each Democratic presidential candidate in 2008. They are just the state delegate equivalents calculated for each candidate, multiplied by 100.

Last week, the Associated Press used the same method when reporting state delegate equivalents for each candidate by county.

In the Democratic caucuses, AP will tabulate State Delegate Equivalents (SDEs), which are the estimated number of state convention delegates that the candidates would receive based on precinct caucus results. AP will input into its election night reporting system 1406 SDEs (1,401 statewide, plus 3 satellite SDEs, plus 2 tele-caucus SDEs, equaling 1,406 total SDEs). AP then will report the total SDEs for each candidate statewide. However, on the county level, the SDE numbers for some candidates are often very small fractions. In order to process these numbers by county without losing precision, the AP will inflate the county numbers by 100.

Various news organizations including the New York Times reposted the AP’s "state delegate equivalents times 100" figures for each Democratic candidate by county. Many people misunderstood what those numbers represented. I saw numerous social media posts linking to the AP numbers as proof of how many Iowans in each county had caucused for each candidate, even though adding those totals didn’t produce a number anywhere near the overall Democratic turnout, which exceeded 171,000.

David Redlawsk, author of a book about the Iowa caucuses, tweeted at Kurtz hours ago explaining the mistake. At this writing (1 pm central), Kurtz has not corrected his post on the Fox News website. A host of television shows critiquing political news coverage should value accuracy in his own work.

I have long called for reforms to make the reported Democratic caucus results more representative of Iowans’ preferences, and I support releasing whatever raw vote numbers the party has now (in many precincts, those numbers were not preserved). But as long as the Iowa Democratic Party insists on releasing only delegate totals for each candidate, news media like CNN and AP should not add to the confusion by reporting state delegate equivalents in a way that resembles raw vote numbers.

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Iowa Senate district 16: Nate Boulton raised more money in four months than Dick Dearden did in seven years

When Nate Boulton announced his Iowa Senate campaign in September, he subtly indicated he would be a different kind of legislator than State Senator Dick Dearden, the longtime Democratic incumbent who is retiring this year. Boulton promised to "be an active and engaged representative of district interests" and to "bring bold progressive ideas and a fresh, energetic style of leadership to the Iowa Senate."

Just a few months into his primary race against Pam Dearden Conner, the retiring senator’s daughter, Boulton sent a strong signal that he will be a more "active and engaged" candidate as well. Campaign finance disclosure forms show that Boulton raised $75,383 during the last four months of the year, a phenomenal total for a non-incumbent, first-time state legislative candidate in Iowa. Not only did Boulton out-raise his primary rival, he raised more than Dearden (a 22-year incumbent) has brought in cumulatively since 2008.

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Rest in peace, David Hurd

Broken Kettle Grasslands near Sioux City, Iowa—photo by Matt Hauge, used with permission

David Hurd passed away in Des Moines this weekend at the age of 86. Police have ruled out foul play in his deadly fall from his condominium building but have not announced whether he took his own life or fell accidentally. He had been suffering from Lewy body disease, a progressive condition.

Hurd was a legendary figure in local business circles, a past CEO of Principal Financial and member of the Iowa Business Hall of Fame since 1994. He left a bigger mark on the capital city than most people of comparable wealth have done. The Des Moines Register’s Lissandra Villa wrote about some of his philanthropic contributions here.

Many progressive organizations benefited from Hurd’s generosity, but it would be particularly hard to overstate how much he did for Iowa’s environmental community. Morgan Gstalter reported for the Register on Hurd’s gift that allowed the Nature Conservancy to acquire the first portion of the Broken Kettle Grasslands in the Loess Hills area: "Now at 3,217 acres, Broken Kettle is Iowa’s largest remaining native prairie and is home to bison and rattlesnakes." The photo at the top of this post shows a tiny part of the stunning landscape. That gift alone would have secured Hurd’s legacy in the environmental world, but he was just getting started.

I became acquainted with Hurd during several years when we served together on the Iowa Environmental Council board. He was a co-founder of the organization. A few qualities stick out in my mind. First, he was attentive but generally quiet during meetings—the opposite of some business types who tend to dominate group conversations. Possibly reading my mind, Principal’s current CEO Dan Houston told the Register that Hurd was "one of the smartest guys you’d ever meet" but also "a very humble man, very capable, diverse, global, international and kind. He listened so, so very well." Yes. Hurd was frequently the smartest guy in the room, but he never made a big deal about being the smartest guy in the room.

Hurd didn’t throw his weight around. He never pulled rank on any other board member, despite having given more money to the council than anyone else. I never heard of him trying to interfere with staff work, which large benefactors of many organizations have been known to do. When new ideas or programs were floated, he wanted to know about real-world impact: how would doing this thing potentially make Iowa’s water cleaner, or reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Even more unusual for a prominent person in the business community, Hurd did not restrict his giving to environmental organizations I consider "politically correct," such as the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation or the Nature Conservancy. He supported non-profits that opposed powerful corporate interests in our state. I’m thinking not only of the Iowa Environmental Council, which pushed for water quality rules that Big Ag groups fought all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court. He was a consistent donor to 1000 Friends of Iowa (on whose board I also serve), and our sustainable land use agenda is not popular with developers.

During his retirement, Hurd helped create the local Scrabble club. When people who had played against him would talk about how competitive he was at the game, I was always amused. In other contexts, he came across as laid back and didn’t give off a competitive vibe at all—which also struck me as atypical for a major corporation’s onetime CEO.

At the CNN Democratic candidates’ town hall a few days before the Iowa caucuses, I spotted David and his wife Trudy in the audience and went over to say a quick hello. I wish I had known that was my chance to say goodbye.

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After Iowa Democratic Party review, Hillary Clinton leads by smaller state delegate margin

After reviewing results in fourteen disputed precincts, the Iowa Democratic Party announced today that new calculations show Hillary Clinton received 700.47 state delegate equivalents (49.84 percent), Bernie Sanders received 696.92 state delegate equivalents (49.59 percent), and Martin O’Malley 7.63 state delegate equivalents (0.54 percent). I enclose below the full statement from the party, with details on the five precincts where county delegate totals had been misreported the night of February 1. In three of those precincts, the Iowa Democratic Party initially reported one too many county delegates for Clinton instead of Sanders. In one precinct, Sanders was allocated a county delegate that should have gone to Clinton. In the last precinct where results were corrected, Sanders was allocated a county delegate that should have gone to O’Malley.

Across 1,681 precincts assigning 11,065 county delegates, a few tabulation or reporting errors are to be expected. That’s why I supported a full review, to dispel any concerns about the accuracy of the results. Contrary to some conspiracy theories I have seen floating around social media, the Iowa Democratic Party could not systematically misreport county delegate totals to give Clinton the victory. Too many witnesses observe what happens in each precinct and would notice if the party got the numbers wrong.

In nine of the precincts the state party reviewed, reported results were found to be correct. The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs explained one supposed example of "fishy" math today. In an Ankeny precinct, 148 people caucused for Sanders and 128 for Clinton. The precinct’s eight county delegates split four to each candidate. Sanders supporter Tucker Melssen thought it was a mistake, and Sanders should have gotten more. Welcome to my world in 1988, Tucker. My candidate had a plurality of caucus-goers in the precinct, but our county delegates split evenly.

Party officials correctly applied the formula used to convert supporters to county delegates in Ankeny 12. Drew Miller’s caucus calculator reveals that if 276 people in a precinct allocating eight county delegates split 148 to 128, each candidate should indeed receive four delegates. Playing around with the calculator, you can see that if Ankeny 12 had allocated nine delegates, Sanders would have gotten five of them. Or, if you leave the delegate total at eight, Sanders would need 156 of the 276 caucus-goers to stand in his corner in order to get five of the precinct’s delegates.

Long before I knew there would be such a close result in an Iowa Democratic caucus, I objected to the sometimes distorting effects of caucus math. Since I published this post on Thursday, many naysayers have told me we can’t ever report raw supporter numbers for each candidate, the way Iowa Republicans caucus. In what other context do Democrats support a system where some voters have more influence over the results than others? Where your voice counts for less if you caucus in a high-turnout precinct or county? Where voters are not able to cast a secret ballot and are excluded from participating because of disability, work or family obligations?

Stop telling me what the Democratic National Committee and the New Hampshire secretary of state won’t "let" us do to improve the caucuses. Start thinking creatively about how we can make the system more representative and inclusive while preserving Iowa’s place in the nominating calendar. The first step is Iowa Democratic Party leaders being willing to fight for positive change, rather than digging in to defend a flawed status quo. I’m not the only one who sees the need for reform: Clinton supporter Brad Anderson and Sanders supporter Phil Roeder both have extensive Iowa Democratic campaign experience and called for change in recent days.

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Weekend open thread: Post Iowa caucus plans edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Many politically active Iowans have been decompressing from the build up to the Iowa caucuses and their aftermath. A few posts on the presidential race are still in my head, waiting to be written soon, and I am not done advocating for reforms to make the caucuses more inclusive and representative. But whereas fellow blogger Pat Rynard will continue to focus substantial energy on national politics in the coming months, I am eager to bring this site back to the state-level news I am most passionate about covering. So much has happened that I didn’t manage to write during the last couple of months, and new stories are breaking all the time. My writing plans include:

• Iowa campaigns and elections. Thanks to our non-partisan redistricting process, our state is blessed with an unusual number of potentially competitive state legislative districts. Many more close looks at Iowa House and Iowa Senate races are in the works, as well as posts about the Congressional races.

• Legislative and state government news. GOP State Senator David Johnson has just become the first statehouse Republican on record for lawmakers reversing the Branstad administration’s Medicaid privatization. (Johnson knows the policy put "children at risk of losing services" because so few providers have signed contracts with the private insurance companies picked to manage Medicaid.) Criminal justice reform, education funding, and water quality programs are other areas I’ll be following as the legislature continues its work.

• Iowa Congressional voting. Unfortunately, very few votes in the U.S. House or Senate receive any attention in the mainstream media. As I’ve said before, if a member of Congress didn’t brag about it in a press release, conference call, or social media post, Iowans are not likely ever to learn that it happened. Catching up on important votes by our four U.S. representatives and two senators is on my to-do list.

• Significant Iowa court rulings. A post in progress will highly key points from a federal court ruling David Pitt covered for the Associated Press, which determined "Iowa State University administrators violated the constitutional free speech rights of student members of a pro-marijuana group by barring them from using the university logos on T-shirts."

• Throwback Thursday. These looks back at Iowa political history have been so much fun, I wish I’d started writing them years ago. Several more are in the works, including one relating to a 2010 law on access to firearms by people subject to protective orders. Ryan Foley reported yesterday for the Associated Press, "More than a dozen states have strengthened laws over the past two years to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, a rare area of consensus in the nation’s highly polarized debate over guns." Iowa lawmakers adopted and Governor Chet Culver signed our state’s version of this legislation in 2010—but getting it through the state House and Senate took some heavy lifting.

• Iowa political journalism. Media issues are close to my heart, having been one of my main beats as during my decade as an analyst of Russian politics. How the Iowa media are covering (or not covering) important political news will continue to be an occasional focus at Bleeding Heartland. Some posts will be short, others long.

As always, guest pieces about any subject related to Iowa politics are welcome here. There is no need to clear ideas or content with me ahead of time. Anyone can register for an account, and I approve all non-spam, substantive posts. Bleeding Heartland has no minimum or maximum word length or restrictions on format. Looking through the posts by all guest authors in 2015, you will find a wide variety of topics and writing styles.

I also appreciate tips and story ideas. Readers can contact me at the e-mail address near the lower right corner of this page or through Twitter.

"Party school" findings shed new light on University of Iowa's secrecy on polling

Since November, the University of Iowa has refused to release documents related to annual statewide polls measuring Iowans’ attitudes about the university over the last three years. Officials have cited a provision in Iowa Code allowing "Reports to governmental agencies" to remain confidential if their release "would give advantage to competitors and serve no public purpose." But Iowa Freedom of Information Council Executive Director Randy Evans has referenced decisions by the Iowa Supreme Court and lower courts, which indicate that the exemption "was not designed to cover documents produced for the government at public expense."

I have assumed the university was concealing documents related to the polling because the work was among several projects awarded through no-bid contracts to a company controlled by former Republican Party of Iowa Chair Matt Strawn. Peter Matthes, the university vice president who supervised those contracts, had prior connections to Strawn through Iowa Republican circles. Matthes also was involved in hiring new University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, both as a member of the presidential search committee and as a participant in one of Harreld’s secret meetings with key decision-makers.

An exclusive report by Ryan Foley for the Associated Press yesterday pointed to a more straightforward reason to keep the poll findings secret: Iowa’s image as a "party school" had hurt its reputation "as a serious academic institution."

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