- Chris Schwartzchair of the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors. He’s the state co-chair for Bernie 2020, as well as state director of Americans for Democratic Action.
Results from Monday’s Iowa caucuses continue to trickle in, with 97% of precincts reporting as of Thursday morning. Senator Bernie Sanders and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg are now in a virtual tie. Sanders maintains a lead in the popular vote, but Buttigieg has a slight advantage in what’s known as the “state delegate equivalent” race. Buttigieg has 26.2% of state delegate equivalents, while Sanders is at 26.1%. The New York Times is now predicting Sanders has a greater chance of winning overall, in part because of the Vermont senator’s overwhelming strength in satellite caucuses. Responding to widespread criticism for the inexplicably slow reporting process, Democratic officials have attributed the chaos in Iowa to a newly created app built by a little-known firm called Shadow, which has financial ties to the Democratic establishment as well as the Buttigieg campaign. For more, we speak with Chris Schwartz, chair of the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors in Iowa and state co-chair for Bernie 2020.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Democratic officials in Iowa are continuing to release official results from Monday’s caucus. Senator Bernie Sanders and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg are now in a virtual tie with 97% of precincts reporting. Sanders maintains a lead in the popular vote, but Buttigieg has a slight advantage in what’s known as the “state delegate equivalent” race. Buttigieg has 26.2% of state delegate equivalents, while Sanders has 26.1%. The New York Times is now predicting Sanders has a greater chance of winning overall, in part [because] of the Vermont senator’s overwhelming strength in satellite caucuses in Iowa and around the country.
AMY GOODMAN: And world. Democratic officials have attributed the chaos in Iowa to a newly created app built by a little-known firm called Shadow, which has ties to the Democratic establishment as well as the Pete Buttigieg campaign. Democratic leaders in Iowa are also facing widespread criticism over its slow release of results and, in some cases, for issuing incorrect results. In one case, Black Hawk County, delegates for Bernie Sanders were mistakenly given to Deval Patrick.
We go now to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where we’re joined by Chris Schwartz. He’s the chair of the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors, the state co-chair for Bernie 2020. He’s also the state director of Americans for Democratic Action.
Chris Schwartz, welcome to Democracy Now! Why don’t you just — this is such a confusing story about what’s taking place in Iowa, still so unclear, so much secrecy. Maybe the word “shadow” is appropriate here. Take us through what has taken place so far in Iowa.
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: Yeah. Thank you, Amy. It’s an honor to be here with Democracy Now! here today.
And so, caucus night, things seemed to be going relatively smoothly in my very diverse precinct in Waterloo, which is the most diverse city in the state of Iowa. We were in and out of our caucus site in less than an hour and left feeling good, like, “Hey, this thing ran smoothly. We’re going to know results tonight.” And then the hours just went on and on and on, and didn’t have a sense of what was going on, then finding out that the app wasn’t working for reporting. And then they didn’t have the backup phone lines operating with enough people. And we were finding out that precinct chairs, who were all volunteers, who did a pretty good job of running their sites, were just waiting on hold for hours and hours and hours —
AMY GOODMAN: Had you practiced before the day of —
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: — and finally giving up and going to bed.
AMY GOODMAN: — the caucus, Chris? Had you practiced? Had you ever seen this app? Had people tried to put some information in to see if it would register?
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: No, I had never seen the app. Only people that were precinct chairs running it had access. And it’s my understanding that most of them just saw it just the weekend before. Some of them were trying to download the app at the actual caucus site that night. And so, there had not been enough of a practice run.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Chris, it seems extraordinary, given the stakes in this election, that Democrats would take a risk of this sort by trying an app that hadn’t even been tested. And you say that only precinct chairs saw it, and that, too, just the weekend before.
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: Yeah, no, it was a pretty, pretty remarkable thing. And, you know, sometimes you’re recruiting precinct chairs up to the last minute to run these caucus sites. So, to think that they could be trained on this new technology, there really should have been some other kind of dry run to see if that was a route that was worthy of going for the Iowa caucuses.
AMY GOODMAN: So, keep going. So the hours drag out.
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: The app doesn’t work. How do you get the Black Hawk County caucus information —
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: — to central command or whoever it is that is counting this up?
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: Yeah, so the hours are going on. It was about 2:00 on Tuesday. I had gotten an email from our county party secretary, just letting me know that Sanders won in a big, sizable margin Black Hawk County, and he knew that I would want to have that information. About an hour later, I went down to our county party office to volunteer and help stuff the envelopes of materials that get sent on to the Iowa Democratic Party in Des Moines, at which point I was shown the breakdown of what the first round of voting and what the final delegate count would be for our county convention, at which point it showed a good almost thousand-vote lead in that first round for Senator Sanders, something that increased when you went even to the second round of viability. And so, this was at about 2:00 that day I knew what was going on, that we had won Black Hawk County really big. But it still wasn’t included in that first initial round of 64% of precincts that was released. And I was getting concerned. Nobody in our county party understood why those numbers weren’t included.
AMY GOODMAN: Because you had reported them.
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: And so, finally, that evening, I reached out to Troy Price, the state chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, and asked, you know, “What is the process that this needs to go through to get released?” you know, trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, trying to understand what their process was they were going through. And I just heard crickets. I heard nothing back, when he’s usually been very responsive to me on things. And so, finally, the next day, I reached out again. I said, “Hey, you know, I’m still waiting on this stuff.”
And then I just like was feeling guilty that I knew the results for our county, but the constituents that I represent didn’t — the volunteers of all these different campaigns, the volunteers that ran these caucus sites and worked really hard to do it, all the people that came in from across the country to get out the vote. We had 40 people staying at our house that weekend doing get-out-the-vote vote efforts. And these people had a right to know what the results of their work was. And so, we tweeted it out. I was actually driving, so my fiancé Logan was handling my phone, and I just told him what to tweet out.
And we put the results out there on Twitter and Facebook, apparently just at the same time that the Iowa Democratic Party was releasing another round of results, to find out that they had given all these Bernie Sanders delegates in Black Hawk County to Deval Patrick. Deval Patrick — and it shouldn’t even come as a surprise to Deval Patrick himself — didn’t have any support in Black Hawk County that evening. And so, we’re just finding out that as we were putting out these results, they were putting out results that are totally contrary. And I think it forced them to immediately walk back what they had put out.
AMY GOODMAN: So, to be clear —
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: And so, it really questioned that —
AMY GOODMAN: To be clear, Chris —
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: You know, it’s taking so long to get these results out, yet they release them, and then they still get it wrong. You know, what is going on? What is the process? Nobody is being told this. I’m a member of the Democratic Party. I’m an elected official in the state. I still can’t even get my answers, you know, answered.
AMY GOODMAN: So, to be clear, Chris, I mean, we got this information because you posted it. Black Hawk County — Black Hawk County caucus results: Sanders, 2,149 votes, that’s 155 county delegates; Buttigieg, 1,578 votes, that’s 111 county delegates. So, that’s like a 44-county-delegate lead for Sanders. And you had given it to them early. It’s not that they didn’t have yours, that you weren’t able to get through. When he finally got through, you then saw results after results posted by the Iowa Democratic Party, but Black Hawk County was not included. And then you saw it was counted as the former Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick’s votes?
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: Yeah. At first, things were not being included. And then, when they finally were included, they had all these precincts going to Deval Patrick, which just didn’t make any sense. You know, like I said, my caucus was done in under an hour. And it took almost 48 hours for the Iowa Democratic Party to finally report those results correctly.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, in our lede, we talked about a number of places now predicting that actually Bernie Sanders — I mean, it’s a virtual tie between him and Buttigieg now, but could pull ahead because of the satellite caucuses. Now, if you could explain? This is such an obscure process, that people in this country, I don’t think, even understand.
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Maybe even in Iowa. Satellite caucuses take place in Iowa, in the United States and outside, around the world, for the Iowa caucus?
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: Yes. So, the satellite caucuses were a new thing this year, one of the reforms to try and make the caucuses more accessible, because as most people looking at this, the caucus is — there’s a hurdle to accessibility, whether you’re disabled or a working person who can’t get off work to come out and participate for a one-hour or two-hour, three-hour-long process. And so, they at first proposed doing a virtual caucus. That was shut down. And so they decided to do these satellite caucuses, that were geared — held in union halls. There were some satellite caucuses that were geared for persons with disabilities. There were satellite caucuses that were Spanish-language.
And it’s my understanding that we’re waiting on a lot of them in the — that were located in the 1st Congressional District in eastern Iowa. And Bernie Sanders was very strong at all of those. I’m hearing that Pete Buttigieg was not viable at a number of those satellite caucus sites. So I think that it’s going to be very interesting to see if that tips the scales here when we get those results. But what’s clear to me is that more Iowans came out and supported Bernie Sanders on caucus night. And so, if there’s such difficulty figuring out the accuracy of the delegates and what the state delegate equivalents are and what that proper equation is, then let’s just go with the popular vote. And that just clearly shows that Bernie Sanders had the most amount of support in Iowa on caucus night.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Chris, could you explain, before we conclude, why is it that a new app was introduced in the first place? I mean, were there difficulties or problems with the app that was used during the Iowa caucus in 2016? What was the justification given for the introduction of an app that was not tested?
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: Yes, it’s a very good question. So, there was no app used in 2016. I was someone who ran my caucus site as the precinct chair in 2016, and we just phoned in our results. There were enough people answering the phone that night. I got through right away and really had had no issues. And so, that’s why — you know, it was very close that night, and that’s why I believe it went late into night, because it was coming down so close between Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton. But we still knew it within hours of the end of the caucus night, because we were using the old standard system of phoning in your results and then dropping off your packet at your county party headquarters. And then that’s all sent to Des Moines so that the record is there. And I think this — I just don’t understand why, if the app wasn’t working, why we didn’t have enough people operating those phone systems.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at a piece in The Intercept. “A person with knowledge of the company’s culture” — talking about Shadow, the app creator — “who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, shared communications showing that top officials at the company regularly expressed hostility to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s supporters. McGowan is married to Michael Halle” — now, McGowan is the head of ACRONYM, which owns Shadow, and McGowan, Tara McGowan, is married to Michael Halle, or Halle, H-A-L-L-E — “a senior strategist with the Buttigieg campaign. There is no evidence any preference of candidates had any effect on the coding issue that is stalling the Iowa results.” But as we wrap up, Chris, if you can talk about the significance of all of this? And, you know, this has certainly opened the discussion again whether Iowa should be first. You talked about Black Hawk County and Waterloo being the most diverse area of Iowa, but the fact is, Iowa and New Hampshire, two of the whitest states in the country, are determining so much of, well, who could be president in 2021.
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: Yeah. Well, I would — you know, I think there’s a lot of information developing about the app that is still unclear. One thing that is clear to me is that the decision wasn’t made by the entire State Central Committee of the Democratic Party, and those are the folks that the party elects to represent us and decide the direction of the state party. I guess it was a decision of an operations subcommittee. And even folks on the State Central Committee that were questioning the use of this app, whether it was secure and whether we had the proper backups in place, I’m being told by those State Central Committee members that those voices were quelled.
I do certainly think — I mean, there are pluses and minuses of the Iowa caucus. You know, a plus of being in a small state like Iowa is that the community organizing still matters in this, versus just being a big media market game. But if I could wave my magic wand, I would probably just have us do a primary all on the same day as Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. And then you’ve got a really great cross-section of America. You have rural states, you have more urban areas, you have much more diversity that reflects the melting pot that is America, all in states there where community organizing and mobilization would still matter. And so, that would be what I would tell the DNC: Let’s move to a primary that’s held in those four states all on the same day, when this is up next.
AMY GOODMAN: I think also people would not be aware in the country that Bernie Sanders, I mean, now in a virtual tie with Buttigieg — they’re 0.1% apart on the delegate equivalents, as you talk about it in Iowa, but thousands of popular votes ahead, right? At this point, 2,500?
CHRIS SCHWARTZ: Absolutely. So, it is very clear that Bernie Sanders had the most support of Iowans on caucus night. And so, I think that’s what people should be looking at around the country, is that this movement came out here in Iowa. In my own precinct, it was very, very diverse support of young black and brown and queer and straight people coming together to support Sanders. And that’s what our coalition looks like all across this country. And I believe there’s a movement that is ready to elect Sanders president, that is going to have really great momentum going off of these early victories in Iowa. And I predict we’re going to do very well in New Hampshire on Tuesday.
AMY GOODMAN: Chris Schwartz, I want to thank you for being with us, chair of the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors, the state co-chair for Bernie 2020, as well as state director of Americans for Democratic Action, speaking to us from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, what has happened to hundreds of Salvadorans who were deported from the United States? A new report is out. We’re going to be talking about that tomorrow. But today, we’re going to talk about the National Archives. You heard about the changing of the photographs of the 2017 march, Women’s March. Well, now there’s a new story. What else is being erased? For example, ICE records. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “American Me” by Masta Ace and Marco Polo. Yesterday would have been Trayvon Martin’s 25th birthday.