U.S. Democrats Just Say No To All Apps After Iowa Disaster

Photo: Nati Harnik, AP

The Nevada State Democratic Party has gotten a glimpse of the nightmarish fate that befell their counterparts in Iowa and will no longer be using an app to manage their upcoming primary caucuses, the Nevada Independent reported.

Previously, it had been reported that Nevada Democrats were only planning on ditching the use of the unfortunately (appropriately?) named Shadow app, which was developed by a company using the same name. Shadow was partially responsible for the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, during which a combination of poor training on the new technology and disastrous software bugs forced local election officials to instead call-in results by phone, overwhelming the Iowa Democrats’ phone lines. Motherboard reported on Friday that a beta version of the same app which Nevada Democrats were planning on using had the same bug that made it impossible to submit results (and that the app appeared to be amateurishly designed anyways).

According to the Independent, Nevada Democrats spokesperson Molly Forgey confirmed that the party is not planning on switching to an app made by another vendor during the Feb. 22 caucuses. That decision was necessary to ensure the caucuses are “secure, efficient, and simple,” which makes sense given that the Iowa results appear to be riddled with errors (many of which appear to have been the fault of elected officials rather than the Shadow app) and are still being contested. The Associated Press reported on Thursday night that it still could not certify a winner in Iowa, citing irregularities in the process.

Nevada Democrats had been planning on using multiple apps during the caucuses, including an iPad-based system “to capture the presidential preferences of caucusgoers at early voting site” and a second reporting app to “guide precinct chairs step by step through the caucus process, automatically fold in the results from caucusgoers who voted early, and transmit final results to the party,” the Independent wrote. As in Iowa, the party planned on keeping paper records in the form of a presidential preference card and had backup phone lines for local election officials to receive early voting data. It’s not clear whether those specific backups are planned on being used or another solution has been proffered, according to the Independent.

Unlike Democratic officials in Iowa, the Independent added, Nevada Democrats released a large amount of information in advance about how the caucus process would work, including detailing how app-based voting and tabulating would go down and beginning testing months in advance. Iowa officials kept many details about the Shadow app secret and reportedly didn’t offer much training, while its developers appear to have landed contracts in part due to its principals’ connections to the Democratic Party.

Both Iowa and Nevada paid Shadow in the neighbourhood of $US60,000 ($89,893). A report in the Des Moines Register this week offered conflicting accounts of whether the Democratic National Committee ordered a security patch that could have compounded problems with the app, which the DNC denied.

Trending Stories Right Now