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Votes are counted during caucusing in the 66th precinct at Abraham Lincoln High School, in Des Moines, Iowa, on Feb. 3, 2020.JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

  • Iowa Democratic Party said it will release more than half of Monday’s delayed caucus results at 5 p.m. ET
  • a ‘coding issue’ within an app is being blamed for delays that left the results unknown.

Both Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg claimed victory in Monday’s Iowa Democratic caucuses after the state party failed to release any results when a new app meant to help report the returns crashed and officials had to add up the vote totals manually.

Party operatives across the state reported that the app they were supposed to use to transmit results back to party headquarters, technology which was being used for the first time in this election, had failed. Some had trouble downloading the app, while others couldn't get their numbers into the system on it.

When they tried to phone their results in, officials found the phone line so tied up that some waited on hold for two hours.

The meltdown marred the start of the marathon race for the party’s presidential nomination, negating Iowa’s traditional role in defining the contest and reviving calls for the state to lose its status as the first to vote.

Early Tuesday morning, party headquarters said not to expect results until sometime later in the day.

The caucuses had been closely watched by a party hoping to break the deadlock between the top candidates in its presidential race. They unfolded less than 48 hours before U.S. President Donald Trump faces a Senate impeachment vote, which is all but certain to acquit him, with the Democrats divided over how to wrest the White House from him in November.

Now, the focus will shift to New Hampshire, which holds its primary next week.

Late Monday evening, Mr. Buttigieg suggested his campaign’s internal counting showed he had won.

“Iowa, you have shocked the nation,” the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., said in a speech to supporters. “By all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.”

His campaign subsequently released figures provided by its volunteers in 75 per cent of precincts, showing Mr. Buttigieg with 25 per cent of the vote. The totals did not show what the other candidates had received.

Mr. Sanders’s campaign, meanwhile, released what it said was a representative sample of caucuses across the state comprising 40 per cent of the total. These numbers showed the Vermont Senator in the lead, with 30 per cent of the vote, Mr. Buttigieg at 25 per cent and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren at 21 per cent. Former vice-president Joe Biden trailed with 12 per cent, just narrowly ahead of Minnesota Senator Amy Kobuchar’s 11 per cent.

“Today marks the beginning of the end for Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history,” Mr. Sanders said at his election night party at a hotel in suburban Des Moines, the state’s capital and only large city.

A more subdued Mr. Biden said the result was “going to be close,” while Ms. Klobuchar used her speech to ridicule Mr. Trump.

“He even recently blamed Justin Trudeau for cutting him out of the Canadian version of Home Alone 2," she said. “Who does that?”

Ms. Warren’s campaign confirmed that it understood she, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Buttiegieg to have finished at the top of the field, but said it would not release its own numbers.

Jenny Murray, a volunteer for Mr. Sanders who served as a captain at a precinct in Creston, Iowa, told The Globe and Mail that she hadn’t been able to transmit her numbers through the app. Still, she said, she was able to report results by telephone within about 30 minutes, suggesting that the party was also having trouble adding up all the numbers.

“It’s bizarre,” she said. “Everyone called them in, but we have no results.”

Adding to the confusion, the state party initially would not fully explain what had gone wrong. The party said there had been a discrepancy between three different figures: The final vote totals, figures from a preliminary round of voting and the projected totals of delegates pledged to each candidate based on the votes.

“We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results,” Iowa Democratic Party communications director Mandy McClure said in a statement. She said the app “did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion.”

Iowa has long faced questions over the outsize role it plays in picking the president. The state of 3.2 million people is not representative of the broader electorate, being far whiter and more rural than the country as a whole.

Its caucus process is also arcane. Voters meet at nearly 1,700 precinct locations across the state, from community centres to church basements, and debate over the candidates before deciding. The voting happens in public, with supporters of each candidate forming into groups on different sides of the room.

At Mr. Sanders’s election party, his supporters burst into chants of “we will win!” when his campaign released its figures. Many in the crowd expressed frustration at the state party. “This is taking the spotlight off who it should be focused on, which is Bernie,” said Huston Truempi, 22.

If Mr. Sanders’s reported results are accurate, they leave him battling Ms. Warren for the party’s progressives and are certain to cause deep anxiety within the party establishment.

Both senators argued in Iowa that only sweeping policy ideas, such as instituting single-payer health care and making public universities tuition-free, will sufficiently motivate voters to overcome the power of Mr. Trump’s base.

“To rebuild something the way you want it, you have to tear it down,” said Austin Bailey, a 34-year-old chef, as he stood with Mr. Sanders’s group at a caucus in a high school on the south side of Des Moines.

Mr. Sanders’s figures also suggest Mr. Buttigieg could unseat Mr. Biden as the standard-bearer for the moderates – even if the delay in releasing official results is certain to dampen any momentum Mr. Buttigieg might gain. Mr. Buttigieg proved skilled at extemporaneous speaking during the myriad town halls that are a hallmark of the up-close-and-personal campaigning in Iowa.

“He’s young, he’s very intelligent, he speaks well. I like his persona, it seems very presidential,” said Terri Villirillo, 65, who made her choice the night before the vote.

Mr. Biden entered the race last spring as the candidate to beat, but has struggled for months. He trails Mr. Sanders in New Hampshire, making it even more crucial for Mr. Biden that he take Nevada and South Carolina later this month.

Mr. Biden has been the subject of frequent attacks from Mr. Trump. The President’s demands that Ukraine investigate Mr. Biden led to Mr. Trump’s impeachment, and the Republicans have used the trial to publicize the baseless suspicions about Mr. Biden that Mr. Trump wanted Kyiv to push.

At campaign stops in the final week before voting, Mr. Biden often appeared tired, speaking in a meandering style and frequently interrupting himself.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire Tom Steyer also campaigned in Iowa, but fell far behind. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg skipped the state to focus on later contests.