Sanders' supporters cry foul over "Coingate": Controversy over coin tosses that made Clinton "winner" in Iowa

The suspicious circumstances in which Clinton edged Sanders has critics demanding answers over bizarre coin flips

Published February 2, 2016 10:15PM (EST)

  (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson/AP/Jim Cole/Photo montage by Salon)
(Reuters/Lucy Nicholson/AP/Jim Cole/Photo montage by Salon)

(This article was updated when the details of another coin toss in Johnson County emerged.)

The results of the first caucus in the U.S. presidential primary election came down not to actual votes, but to a coin toss — or, rather, to multiple coin tosses.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton had a virtual tie in the Iowa caucus Monday night. With 99 percent of precincts reported, there was just a 0.2 percent difference; Sanders had 49.6 percent of statewide delegate equivalents, and Clinton had 49.8 percent.

The Iowa Democratic Party said the results were "the closest in Iowa Democratic caucus history."

Because they were tied, in order to determine who would get the delegates, coin tosses were reportedly held in at least seven precincts.

There were two coin tosses in Des Moines and four more in Ames, Newton, West Branch and Davenport, the Des Moines Register reported. Clinton won all of these.

Another video, which the Des Moines Register did not report on, also emerged, showing a seventh coin toss in Johnson County. Sanders won what appears to be just this one.

Clinton reportedly won six out of the seven coin tosses. This assured her several more delegates to the Democratic Party's county conventions, of which there are thousands that are selected from the state's 1,681 precincts in order to determine who gets statewide delegate equivalents.

Clinton ultimately got 700.59 state delegate equivalents, while Sanders got 696.82 state delegate equivalents, a mere 3.77 point difference, according to the Iowa Democratic Party.

In other words, although six is a small fraction of the thousands of overall county delegates, these coin tosses — all of which Clinton reportedly won, despite the low probability — may have pushed her over the edge, giving her the extra statewide delegate equivalents that granted her an additional Iowa delegate.

Clinton ended up getting just one more Iowa delegate, with 22 to Sanders' 21.

Even before all the precincts were reported, the characteristically confident Clinton campaign had immediately declared victory.

The Sanders campaign, on the other hand, has not conceded, and is requesting a recount, the Associated Press reported.

Because of the incredibly close results and the very low probability of Clinton winning all of these coin tosses, Sanders' supporters have raised suspicions. Others have accused the Iowa caucus of manipulation and foul play.

Salon reached out to John Allen Paulos, the prominent mathematician and author of "Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences," requesting a comment on the controversy. "It does arouse a little suspicion — about the six consecutive wins for Clinton, about the way the flips took place, and about the 60 missing attendees. Can't say more now," he said.

In Ames, Clinton was awarded county delegates based on a coin toss only after 60 caucus participants suddenly disappeared, for unknown reasons.

Moreover, a widely circulated video uploaded to C-SPAN alleges that Clinton supporters committed voter fraud in Polk County, Iowa. The post claims that the video shows the caucus chair and Clinton precinct captain not conducting an actual count of Clinton supporters and deliberately misleading the caucus.

Mere hours after being uploaded, the C-SPAN post had hundreds of thousands of views.

These circumstances led critics on social media to jokingly use the hashtags #coingate, #coinspiracy and #coinghazi.

Coin Toss Gives Hillary Victory in Iowa, Cruz Just Beats Trump

By Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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2016 Democratic Primary Aol_on Bernie Sanders Coingate Hillary Clinton Iowa Caucus 2016