Nevada caucus results delayed for hours, Buttigieg camp claims 'irregularities'

Buttigieg's campaign raised questions about the results of Saturday's contest.
Image: Pete Buttigieg arrives for a roundtable with environmental activists and Native American leaders in Las Vegas on Feb. 21, 2020.
Pete Buttigieg arrives for a roundtable with environmental activists and Native American leaders in Las Vegas on Feb. 21, 2020.Eric Thayer / Reuters

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By Vaughn Hillyard, Priscilla Thompson and Allan Smith

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 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."

"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," she said.

Officials released more data later Sunday night, putting Biden in second place and Buttigieg in third, according to an NBC News projection.

The Buttigieg campaign had already begun to raise concerns about the data even before most of the results came through.

"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.

"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.

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."