February 2, 2016

After media -- I'm looking at you, Steve Kornacki -- reported that Hillary Clinton won ALL the coin tosses in the Iowa caucuses, there was a lot of noise online from people outraged that a coin toss could determine the nominee. And yes, we even repeated it.

Not so fast.

First, the coin toss only applies to county-level delegates, which are are only a small fraction of all the delegates assigned to a candidate. State-level delegates, which are what affect the nomination, were not chosen by coin toss.

Second, The Atlantic reports that there were at least 13 precincts which used a coin toss to assign delegates. Of those, Bernie Sanders won 6, Hillary Clinton won 7. Not all of the coin flips were reported because precinct captains using the smart phone app were only required to report the outcome, not the means by which fractional delegates were awarded. Those who reported in by phone reported the coin toss, which is what generated the original report.

There's also this:

Of the flips first reported that went Hillary’s way, Sanders won three of the five counties affected, anyway.

Here they are, checked against the county-level results published in the LA Times:

flip 1 – Ames (Story County): went for Sanders, 2,737 – 1,862
flip 2 – Des Moines (Polk County): went for Clinton 12,122 – 10,526
flip 3 – Des Moines (Polk County): went for Clinton 12,122 – 10,526
flip 4 – West Branch (Cedar County): went for Sanders 445 – 354
flip 5 – Davenport (Scott County): went for Sanders 4,144 – 4,025
flip 6 – Newton (Jasper County): went for Sanders 927 – 810

So, to recap. At least 13 precincts used the coin toss to assign county-level delegates. Of those, Sanders won 6 and Hillary won 7, apparently, which is consistent with the odds -- and also the outcome.

Glad we could clear that one up. Onward.

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