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Amid Hawaii delays, the Internet turned to a Google doc for caucus results

Saturday marked the first time Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders swept a full round of caucuses, defeating front-runner Hillary Clinton in all three of the day's presidential contests.

Saturday marked the first time Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders swept a full round of caucuses, defeating front-runner Hillary Clinton in all three of the day's presidential contests.

But when the mainstream media was nearly silent on his victory, voters took the electoral process into their own hands.

Overnight, a Google document built by a handful of strangers became the go-to source for the caucus results. Its creators were the first to project Sanders' victory, as the mainstream media waited on stalling, overwhelmed caucus organizers.

As organizers in Hawaii scrambled to gather results, Alec Salisbury compiled his own set of stats from his computer in his Ithaca College dorm. With a group of three to 10 strangers, the 20-year-old college student broke the story of Sanders' landslide victory.

"It's been a very hectic 15 hours since the caucus results started coming in from WA, HI, and AK," Salisbury said in a statement after news outlets made their final projections. "I was ecstatic to see how incredibly close our projections came to the official results. It was amazing interacting and collaborating with like-minded voters from all across the country."

The Associated Press gave the first official projection by 10 p.m. HST/4 a.m. — at least three hours later than planned — and declared what people following the spreadsheets already knew. The AP's data showed Sanders crushing Clinton, 70.6% to 29.3%.

The Google document? It showed Sanders at 69.7% and Clinton at 30.3%.

Large turnout, delays

The Democratic Party of Hawaii said it would release the results by 8 p.m. HST/1 a.m. EST. Then by 9 p.m. Then 9:30 p.m., the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported. The delays in reporting came as the party experienced a surge in voter turnout comparable to the 2008 caucus when then- Sen. Obama was running against Hilary Clinton for president.

Party chairwoman Stephanie Ohigashi told the Associated Press the polling station where she voted on Maui was organized. Thousands of new members joined the party before the caucus, and some polling stations had massive crowds, which may have contributed to the delay.

Some of the new party members were residents who had lived through internment camps or immigrated to Hawaii, Ohigashi said. They joined to bolster the party's chances of stopping Donald Trump from becoming president.

But another factor in the delay was the party leadership's decision not to release partial results.

The holdup drew ire from voters across the country, including many Sanders supporters who called it a "media blackout."

Salisbury, who supports Sanders for president, echoed some of their sentiments. Before the AP's projection, Salisbury said in a phone interview that he believes the media has treated Sanders unfairly, especially compared to its coverage of Clinton and Republican front-runner Trump.

But, he added, his concern Saturday night was getting the caucus results to the people — and getting it right.

"No one has really commented on the accuracy because no one really knows how accurate it is," he said early Sunday morning from New York. "Many are grateful online. They're happy to have some idea of what might happen."

Gathering the results wasn't too difficult, he said. He and his cohorts scrolled through tweets with caucus-related hashtags. If he saw a number, he looked for other sources reporting the same results.

More primaries, more crowdsourcing

Sanders, who's still trailing Clinton, claimed 25 delegates in Hawaii, 16 in Alaska and 101 in Washington state.

The next contests could favor the former secretary of state. Wisconsin, which has 96 delegates at stake, holds its primary April 5. Clinton's home state of New York, which has 291 delegates at stake, votes April 19.

In Hawaii, Democrats packed schools, waiting through long lines and sifting through confusing ballot directions. It's a familiar problem for Democratic organizers. Precincts in Arizona, Utah and Michigan, among other states, faced similar problems when voting day arrived.

If Saturday's caucuses are any indication, voters and spectators may be seeing more Google documents going viral on social media.

"I would like to thank everyone who helped us out, and especially those who directly contributed to updating the document," he said. "Our group will most likely do this again for the next caucus."