Nevada responds to Buttigieg campaign after alleging irregularities in caucus vote

By Dan Merica and Chandelis Duster, CNN

(CNN) -- Pete Buttigieg's campaign sent a letter to the Nevada State Democratic Party on Sunday, alleging that there are "material irregularities pertaining to the process of integrating early votes into the in-person precinct caucus results" and asking the party to take three concrete steps to address the purported issues.

The letter asked the state party to "release early vote and in-person vote totals by precinct," "correct any outstanding second alignment errors identified by presidential campaigns, including ours" and "explain anomalies in the data."

The allegations make Buttigieg's campaign the first to question the Nevada results, which -- with 50% of precincts reporting -- found Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with a significant lead, former Vice President Joe Biden at 19% and Buttigieg at 15%. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren trailed Buttigieg at 10%.

The claims from the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, follow the chaos surrounding the Iowa caucuses weeks earlier. That chaos delayed reporting results from the first-in-the-nation state and undercut the legitimacy of the caucus process. Nevada's process did not experience the same disorder that impacted the Iowa caucuses, but the results have taken hours to report, with thousands still left unreported nearly 24 hours after the caucuses began.

Molly Forgey, communications director for the Nevada State Democratic Party, responded to the letter in a statement to CNN on Sunday.

"We laid out our early vote and Caucus Day processes step by step and we communicated these processes to all campaigns. We are continuing to verify and to report results," Forgey said. "We never indicated we would release a separate breakdown of early vote and in-person attendees by precinct and will not change our reporting process now. As laid out in our recount guidance, there is a formal method for requesting a challenge of results."

Hari Sevugan, Buttigieg's deputy campaign manager, said the campaign's date currently shows "that this is a razor thin margin for second place in Nevada" -- a signal that the campaign knows any irregularities would not cause them to catch up to Sanders, who has a seemingly insurmountable lead, but could determine who finishes second.

"And due to irregularities and a number of unresolved questions we have raised with the Nevada Democratic Party, it's unclear what the final results will be," he continued.

CNN has projected Sanders will win the Nevada caucuses. Speaking to supporters on Saturday, Buttigieg congratulated Sanders on the victory but cautioned against nominating Sanders as the Democratic presidential candidate.

"I believe the best way to defeat Donald Trump and deliver for the American people is to broaden and galvanize the majority that supports us on the critical issues," Buttigieg said at his caucus day watch party. "Sen. Sanders believes in an inflexible ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans."

Earlier this month, Sanders and Buttigieg requested partial recounts on certain precincts in the Iowa caucuses.

After 100% of precincts were reported by the Iowa Democratic Party, multiple campaigns submitted evidence of what they saw as inconsistencies in counting. The complaints stemmed from 95 precincts -- 5% of the total 1,765 precincts in the state.

On Tuesday, the state party announced that a recanvass of more than 100 Iowa caucus precincts had ended, resulting in Buttigieg's lead over Sanders, tightening to a fraction of a standard delegate equivalent. The state party also said the tightening does not impact the national delegate count, which awarded Buttigieg 14 national delegates out of Iowa, compared to Sanders' 12 delegates.

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