Local Democrats report wrong caucus results
February 18, 2008
SUMMIT COUNTY ” A mismatch between Feb. 5 democratic numbers reported for Summit County’s local caucuses and actual votes cast raises questions about the accuracy of the statewide results.
Numbers given to the Summit Daily News on caucus night, from the sheets submitted by individual precincts to party leaders, showed 384 votes for Sen. Barack Obama and 170 votes for Sen. Hillary Clinton in the “presidential preference poll.” The state party website, however, reports 221 for Clinton and 365 for Obama ” the same numbers included in a press release written Feb. 6 by Summit County Democratic Party Chairman Sandy Briggs.
It’s unclear how and by whom the votes were counted on caucus night. Nearly a week after the local meeting, Briggs acknowledged the accuracy of the Summit Daily count. When asked about the discrepancy, he blamed himself.
“I don’t know, it was a crazy night,” he said. “Obviously, I made a mistake.”
According to state Democratic Party spokesperson Matt Sugar, individual Colorado counties are responsible for their own vote counts.
“It’s all done at the county level,” he said. By party rules, counties have seven days to report official numbers to the state party, but this year, because of the unexpected number of caucus attendees, a state party officer issued a “challenge” to every county chair in order to give them more time to complete the official process.
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The numbers posted on the state website are not official, Sugar emphasized. They are, however, the figures released to national media on caucus night, and may well be Colorado’s most significant contribution to the presidential nomination process.
Last year, Colorado state legislators moved the caucuses to “Super Tuesday” from their traditional late spring date in order for state party members to have more of a voice in that process. In the state’s caucus system, though, the final distribution of actual delegates attending the Democratic National Convention isn’t decided until the state convention in May.
When asked if the results posted from Colorado’s 63 other counties could vary as much from the real caucus vote as do those of Summit County, Sugar reiterated that vote credentialing is not done at the state level, but also acknowledged the logistical challenges this year’s high voter turnout posed for county organizers.
“In 2004, we had 15,000 people at the caucuses,” he said. “This year we had over 120,000.”
According to Briggs, final results from Feb. 5 will be reviewed by the local party’s credentials committee and submitted for an approval vote at the Feb. 25 County Assembly and Convention.
Although official results are up submitted at the county level and the state plays no part in the auditing process, Sugar said any mismatch in reporting data is of interest to the state organization.
“I think (a discrepancy like) that warrants a discussion between the state party and the county party,” he said.