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In First, Iowa Mosques Serve as Caucus Sites - With Sanders a Popular Favorite

'It's historical,' said state Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, the only Muslim state legislator in Iowa

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People listen as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during an event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S., February 2, 2020Credit: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Democratic party officials in Iowa made history on Monday night as their first-in-the-nation caucuses ended the night without publishing any results. While the nation anxiously awaits a winner, Iowa’s Democratic Party can take credit for a different kind of historic first - using Mosques as satellite caucus sites for the first time.

"It's historical," state Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, the only Muslim state legislator in Iowa, reported Al Jazeera. The mosques along with 80 other locations around the world acted as a "satellite sites", which were established this year to be more accessible and inclusive of all Iowans.

"Our goal has remained steadfast throughout this process - to make these caucuses the most accessible in our party's history, and the satellite caucuses do just that," said Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) Chair Troy Price in a statement announcing the new satellite sites.

"The People For Bernie Sanders," an online grassroots movement that supports the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders, posted a video online from the Muslim Community Organization in Des Moines, showing the caucusing in action and while no official totals have been released the campaign claimed to have won the site.

In a statement early Tuesday, the Iowa Democratic Party blamed a “coding issue in the reporting system” that it said has since been fixed. The problem kept party officials from releasing results from Monday’s caucus, the much-hyped kickoff to the 2020 primary. It was an embarrassing twist after months of promoting the contest as a chance for Democrats to find some clarity in a jumbled field with no clear front-runner.

Instead, caucus day ended with no winner, no official results and many fresh questions about whether Iowa can retain its coveted “first” status.

State party officials said “our plan is to release results as soon as possible” later Tuesday. It said it had verified the accuracy of the collected data and said the problem was not a result of “a hack or an intrusion.”

The statement came after tens of thousands of voters spent hours Monday night sorting through a field of nearly a dozen candidates who had spent much of the previous year fighting to win the opening contest of the 2020 campaign and, ultimately, the opportunity to take on President Donald Trump this fall.

The candidates didn’t wait for the party to resolve its issues before claiming, if not victory, progress and moving on to next-up New Hampshire.

“It looks like it’s going to be a long night, but we’re feeling good,” former Vice President Joe Biden said, suggesting the final results would “be close.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he had “a good feeling we’re going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa” once results were posted. “Today marks the beginning of the end for Donald Trump,” he predicted.

“Listen, it’s too close to call,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said. “The road won’t be easy. But we are built for the long haul.”

And Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was most certain.

“So we don’t know all the results, but we know by the time it’s all said and done, Iowa, you have shocked the nation,” he said. “By all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.”

Democrats faced the possibility that whatever numbers they ultimately released would be questioned. And beyond 2020, critics began wondering aloud whether the Iowa caucuses, a complicated set of political meetings staged in a state that is whiter and older than the Democratic Party, are a tradition whose time had passed.

The party has tried to accommodate critics, this year by promising to report three different data points about voters’ preferences, presumably improving transparency. But the new system created new headaches.

State party spokeswoman Mandy McClure said it had “found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results,” forcing officials to try to verify results with “underlying data” and the paper trail.

Some of the trouble stemmed from issues with a new mobile app developed to report results to the party. Caucus organizers reported problems downloading the app and other glitches.

Des Moines County Democratic Chair Tom Courtney said the new app created “a mess.” As a result, Courtney said precinct leaders were phoning in results to the state party headquarters, which was too busy to answer their calls in some cases.

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