Did Hillary Clinton win Iowa on a coin toss?

Due to complications at some of Iowa’s caucus precincts, a handful of the Democratic delegates were awarded based on coin tosses Monday night.

Adrees Latif/Reuters
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton celebrates with her husband, former President Bill Clinton (rear), and their daughter Chelsea (obscured) at her caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday night.

A tight contest in the Democratic Iowa caucuses came down to the wire Monday night, and some of the electoral affair was decided by pure luck.

The first major event on the road to the 2016 United States presidential election saw Democratic front runners Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders practically tied by the end of the process.

Even after the Iowa Democratic Party declared that all 1,683 precincts had reported in, a margin of only 0.2 percent separated the candidates; 49.8 percent Democratic delegate equivalents went to Secretary Clinton while Senator Sanders came away with 49.6 percent. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley ended his campaign Monday after winning only 0.5 percent of the delegates.

The close caucus race between Clinton and Sanders wasn't just about candidate campaigning and voter deliberation. The Des Moines Register reported Tuesday that several Iowan precincts awarded their delegates on the basis of a coin toss.

Here's what happened: In several caucus precincts, the number of attendees exceeded the number of votes in the final preference count. This led to a discrepancy between the voter support for each candidate and the number of delegates each precinct could select. These “orphan delegates” had to be assigned somewhere, so precinct leaders contacted Democratic leaders through a caucus hotline. The party officials told caucus-goers to grant the candidates the final delegate by flipping a coin.

The Register found that in total, six precincts ended up with a tie or some problem that led to decision by chance. In every case, Clinton’s side won by calling the correct side of a coin.

The county convention delegates assigned in the caucus are not the same as the delegate equivalents used to determine the percentages in the final results. The more than 11,000 representatives are instead elected to one of Iowa’s 99 county conventions that later decide the delegates to send to congressional district, state, and eventually national conventions.

While the few delegates decided by coin toss Monday night had a minimal impact on the overall results, the razor-thin gap between first and second place meant every head counted for both Democratic candidates. Clinton’s campaign finally declared victory Tuesday after all precincts reported in, citing the official results as evidence of a win.

“After thorough reporting — and analysis — of results, there is no uncertainty, and Secretary Clinton has clearly won the most national and state delegates,” said Matt Paul, Clinton’s Iowa campaign manager, in a written statement. “Statistically, there is no outstanding information that could change the results and no way that Sen. Sanders can overcome Secretary Clinton's advantage.”

The Iowa Democratic Party announced early Tuesday morning that Clinton had scraped by with 699.57 delegate equivalents to Sanders’ 695.49, per the Register.

Sanders said the caucus ended in a "virtual tie" late Monday night, with one of his advisers saying their campaign took on Clinton's and "fought them to a draw," reported the Associated Press.

The state's Republican caucus results favored Sen. Ted Cruz, who won a 27.6 percent share of votes cast within his party. Donald Trump earned 24.3 percent of the Republican votes, and Sen. Marco Rubio garnered 23.1 percent. No other Republican candidate won more than 10 percent of party votes in the caucuses.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.