The 2020 Democratic Primary: A War of Information

Evan Neu ’22

Contributing Writer

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, I was notified by a ConnPirg email that it was the last day to change party registration before the Connecticut primary three months in the future. While confident that I was already registered Democrat, I double-checked my enrollment and was shocked to see I was listed as uaffiliated! I scrambled to mail in my registration form. Only later I learned that the deadline is only a week before the primary for unaffiliated voters.

For young or politically disaffected individuals  recently energized to vote for leftist politicians like Senator Bernie Sanders and local candidates, registration issues for the Democratic primaries are nothing new. In 2016, many New Yorkers turned out to vote for Sanders, yet found they could not since they were not listed as Democrats on the voter rolls. Voters must have registered as Democrats six months before the primary to obtain voting privileges. While some were likely not aware of this deadline, others may have been some of the 125,000 voters removed from voter rolls due to “irregularities.” In 2016, Clinton won New York by 58% and Connecticut by 51.7%. New York and Connecticut are among 20 states to have closed Democratic primaries. 

The politics of information once again contributed heavily to the 2020 Democratic caucus in Iowa. Firstly, the Buttigieg campaign cancelled the reliable Des Moines Register poll, which was later revealed to show a lead for Sanders. His campaign, alongside the Biden campaign, financially supported Shadow, the company which developed the app responsible for the chaos of delayed results and vote count irregularities from Iowa in the past few days. The CEO of Acronym, the parent organization of Shadow, Tara McGowan, is the wife of Buttiegieg campaign senior strategist Michael Halle.

The actual results of the caucus hold equal weight to how the media reports on the them. Results from the Iowa Caucus were downplayed before voting even took place, and afterwards by the State of the Union address. As information trickled in, Pete Buttigieg was declared the winner with 62% reporting. However, Sanders holds a steady popular vote lead with 96% reporting. In numerous precincts, like Black Hawk county, significant discrepancies in votes favoring Buttigieg were reported compared to records from the Sanders campaign. Many of these were fixed over time, but only because people spoke up. 

How the race will progress is currently anyone’s guess. Was Buttigieg ascendant because Biden’s voters heeded the Vice President’s advice to “vote for someone else”? Will Buttigieg’s suspicious win in Iowa be a blessing or a curse in New Hampshire? One thing for certain is that Bernie Sanders is in his best position yet after Iowa, and is currently the favorite according to Nate Silver at 538. However, the fate of the race is still largely dependent on who controls the information: votes, reports, and facts.


Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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