Nevada caucus results still up in the air as Buttigieg camp claims 'irregularities'




 

More than 24 hours since the Nevada caucuses closed, a large portion of the results had yet to be released, adding an additional layer of confusion to an already fractured primary process.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders claimed a clear victory Saturday night, but the rest of the field remains murky. Former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg have both claimed a second-place finish in Nevada and the delayed results are only generating more skepticism of the caucus process.

By late afternoon Sunday, the Nevada Democratic Party had only reported around half of the results. A spokesperson for the party, Molly Forgey, said the delay in reporting Saturday's results was due to the additional requirements by the national party but that officials were "continuing to verify and to report results."

"Like we've said all along, results aren't going to come through as quickly as in the past because the party is processing and reporting three sets of data this cycle instead of one for additional transparency as required by DNC rules," she said. "We also added a historic new early voting period for four days before the caucus, which brought thousands of new voters into the process but also added another layer to the caucus math. We're glad we were able to report results from a majority of precincts yesterday, but our number one priority is accuracy when reporting results because we understand just how important it is that we get this right and protect the integrity of Nevadans' votes."

The delay in the results left an opening for Buttigieg's campaign to question their accuracy.

"Given how close the race is between second and third place, we ask that you take these steps before releasing any final data," the campaign wrote late Saturday in a letter to the Nevada Democratic Party.

Buttigieg advisers maintain that the former mayor will finish in second, or closer to second than the results currently indicate, after the full and accurate accounting of results.

"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," Buttigieg's deputy campaign manager Hari Sevugan said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Biden's campaign manager tweeted Saturday night that the former vice president would finish with a "strong second" in Nevada. Minutes later, the Buttigieg campaign fired back, suggesting its own tabulations of data from across the state showed a closer race.

"Not from what we're seeing," Buttigieg strategist Michael Halle tweeted.

Following 2016 caucuses, the Democratic National Committee required state parties operating caucuses, including in Iowa and Nevada, to report more transparent numbers out of caucus locations. But in Iowa, tech issues with a mobile app intended to help transfer and tabulate data in Iowa delayed the final outcome of the Feb. 3 contest.

An NBC News review of the Iowa results found that the data was rife with potential errors and inconsistencies. Troy Price, the head of the Iowa Democratic Party, resigned earlier this month over his handling of the caucus debacle.

Officials in Nevada scrapped plans to use the same app after the Iowa fallout, but Saturday's contest had its own set of issues, including volunteer shortages and phone delays.

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Sunday joined a growing voice of Democrats calling on the party to get rid of caucuses altogether.

"I believe we should make the process of selecting our nominee even more accessible," Reid said. "It's time for the Democratic Party to move to primaries everywhere."

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