A strange and confusing night for Democrats in Iowa was made a little stranger as several caucuses that were too close to call were settled with the flip of a coin.
Registered Democrats gathered across the state Monday night for public votes, or caucuses, to determine who they want to face U.S. President Donald Trump in the November election.
Several videos emerged online of coin tosses being used to determine which candidate should receive delegates in the event of a tie.
“Ready?” a man says before he flips a coin to break a tie between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg.
“Tails!” a Sanders supporter shouts as the coin flips in the air and falls to the gymnasium floor.
The coin ended up falling on tails, awarding Sanders an additional delegate over Buttigieg.
Similar scenarios played out across the state.
Bernie Sanders won a coin toss in precinct 68 against Pete Buttigieg. Sanders was at 2.5 delegates, Buttigieg 1.5 delegates and Warren 1 but only 5 delegates in the precinct. So Sanders got 3 and Buttigieg 1. #IowaCaucus #caucus pic.twitter.com/076tfn36fP— Mikko Marttinen (@MikkoMarttinen2) February 4, 2020 February 4, 2020
The coin toss pic.twitter.com/qvJ8ZHlsVk— John Pemble (@johnpemble) February 4, 2020
It appears coin tosses were only used in a select handful of small, rural voting locations, known as precincts. Iowa has 1,765 precincts in total.
Turning to coin tosses isn’t entirely new in Iowa. The same approach was used in at least a dozen smaller caucuses in 2016, to settle ties between Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Clinton went on to win the state by a razor-thin margin and eventually clinched the Democratic nomination.
The official results of Monday night’s caucuses have not been released due to technology problems and “inconsistencies,” according to Iowa Democratic Party officials. A new app designed to collect the results was blamed for the delay, and the party is now working to manually verify its data.
But that hasn’t stopped some Democrats from celebrating.
Speaking to supporters late Monday night, Buttigieg appeared the most confident that he’d come out a winner.
"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."
Sanders said he had "a good feeling we're going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa" once results are up. Former U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, who struggled to win over supporters in urban precincts, suggested the final results would “be close” but said he was “feeling good.”
The lack of firm results sparked frustration among some voters and revived a long-running debate about whether or not Iowa should be the first state to elect delegates in the Democratic primary race. Critics say Iowa isn’t representative of the rest of the country, with a population that is 90 per cent white and lives mostly in rural areas. The state’s 41 delegates represent just 1 per cent of total delegates up for grabs nationwide.
The next vote will be held in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Next month, Democrats in 14 states will vote on "Super Tuesday" — a key milestone in the race when 1,357 delegates are up for grabs.
Resorting to a 50-50 tossup has happened in Canada, as well. In 2015, a coin toss was used to break a tie in Manitoba between two NDP candidates vying to run in a provincial by-election.
With files from The Associated Press