Fox News scandalized ordinary Iowa Democratic caucus procedures to baselessly suggest former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won a Des Moines, IA, precinct through “voter fraud.”
During the February 3 broadcast of Fox & Friends, host Heather Nauert claimed that “voter fraud” benefiting Clinton may have occurred because “Votes at a Des Moines high school were counted by hand. The first count had Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders just separated by five votes. After a second count, Clinton gained more votes but counted different people.”
Fox & Friends then aired video from Des Moines Democratic Precinct No. 43 of three apparent supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) questioning Clinton's vote total after a second count of voters.
In scandalizing the multiple voter counts, Nauert misunderstands the mechanism by which voters are counted at Democratic precincts.
Fox News also deceptively chose which portion of video from the precinct site to air, focusing only on the complaints of three voters. Fox News did not air the caucus chair explaining that it was extremely unlikely that a further recount of voters would change the delegate apportionment from Precinct No. 43. Fox News also failed to air the caucusgoers' vote on whether an additional recount was needed. According to full video available online, the vast majority of Sanders supporters joined Clinton supporters in declining to recount.
Here are several ways in which Fox's segment distorted and misunderstood the Iowa Democratic caucus process:
Multiple Voter Counts Are A Normal Part Of The Process. When caucusgoers arrive at their precinct they divide themselves into what are called "preference groups" for various candidates. After everyone has formed preference groups, a count is made. Any “preference group” that does not include at least 15 percent of total on-site voters is not considered viable. These voters then have the option of joining a “preference group” that is viable. Unless every single caucusgoer initially joins a viable “preference group,” there is always going to be a reshuffling of voters and second count.
As The Caucus Chair Explained, It Was Highly Unlikely That A Recount Would Have Changed Delegate Appointment From The Precinct. Video of the Precinct No. 43 dispute indicates that three Sanders supporters were concerned that several Clinton supporters were included in her total count despite possibly having left the Clinton “preference group” after the first vote. The caucus chair explained that in his belief, this discrepancy had been accounted for, with three people having been identified as leaving, but he said that he would put forward a motion to recount anyway. Before the motion, the chair explained, “By the way, just so you know, the difference here will not change the delegate math. There are only nine delegates, I do not believe it will change the delegate math, but that being said I could be wrong.” Even in the unlikely event that a recount did change delegate apportionment, it would have been a swing of one of approximately 11,000 county-level delegates awarded during the caucuses. (And as The Des Moines Register explained, the county-level delegates awarded at individual precincts have far less significance compared to the statewide delegate equivalents that “determine the outcome on caucus night.”)
The Vast Majority Of Voters, Regardless Of Who They Supported, Did Not Want A Recount. In video that Fox News failed to air, nearly all the people in the room can be seen raising their hands against having an additional count of voters. Sanders supporters are on the right side of the image:
The type of conduct that Fox News falsely claimed occurred at Precinct No. 43 wouldn't even fall within what experts consider to be voter fraud. As the Brennan Center for Justice explained, voter fraud is “fraud by voters” and “occurs when individuals cast ballots despite knowing that they are ineligible to vote, in an attempt to defraud the election system,” which bears no resemblance to what Fox News purported to demonstrate in its video. Fox News frequently makes baseless claims about widespread voter fraud -- often in support of restrictive voter ID laws -- even though actual in-person voter fraud is extremely rare.