Richard L. Hasen: The Supreme Court may no longer have the legitimacy to resolve a disputed election
“It looks like incompetence,” Rick Hasen, an expert on election laws at UC Irvine and the author of the new, and fortuitously timed, book Election Meltdown, told me. Hasen noted that the caucus is run not by state officials but by the state Democratic Party, which doesn’t necessarily have the capacity to handle such a major event. “This is the one time every four years that the eyes of the world are on Iowa. They really screwed it up. This stuff shouldn’t be rocket science, but a caucus is a very complicated thing.”
Nonetheless, “I find the claims of intentional rigging to be irresponsible and dangerous,” Hasen said.
The theories range from the specific to the very vague. Given documented Russian interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections, some people immediately feared the Kremlin’s hand at work. There is at this point no evidence that is true; the failures of the app in Iowa seem to come down to a piece of technology that wasn’t up to snuff. The president, who has long denied that Russia interfered in the 2016 election—though his administration otherwise uniformly acknowledges it—mocked the idea, tweeting, “When will the Democrats start blaming RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA, instead of their own incompetence for the voting disaster that just happened in the Great State of Iowa?”
Yet his own campaign is at the same time discounting mere incompetence as the cause, and spreading conspiracy theories of its own. “Mark my words, they are rigging this thing,” Eric Trump tweeted, while his brother added, “The fix is in ... AGAIN.” (Their father repeatedly claimed ahead of the 2016 election, without evidence, that the election was “rigged,” and he has falsely claimed millions of ballots were cast by ineligible voters.) A campaign spokesperson asked whether the race was “being rigged against Bernie Sanders.”
Read: The Iowa caucus could go very wrong
Some Sanders fans have been particularly skeptical of the snafu. Sanders was expected to win or place very high in the caucus, and they claim that the Democratic Party engineered the fiasco to stop him. Another, related conspiracy theory centers on the app itself. The app is a product of a company called—I am not making this up—Shadow. In July, the campaign of Pete Buttigieg also paid Shadow $43,000 for software rights and subscriptions. Last night, despite the lack of official results, Buttigieg claimed Iowa as “a victory” for his campaign, based on preliminary results and entrance polling.
Thus the theory, advanced by Representative Ilhan Omar, a Sanders endorser: Buttigieg was in league with Shadow, which failed, allowing him to declare a win. But it’s not uncommon for campaign tech vendors to work with multiple campaigns and other entities like state parties, and the bad press that Shadow is receiving for the Iowa debacle will surely cost it far more than $43,000.