App Failures Cause Iowa Caucus Chaos

The notoriously complex Iowa caucus system was complicated further earlier this week, as errors with an app used by the Democratic Party to tabulate results caused delays in reporting results. The results remain unclear days after voting ended, and Tom Perez, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, has called for a recanvas of the results to ensure transparency and confidence in the results.

Multiple reports emerged in the wake of voting of caucus and Democratic Party officials encountering difficulties using the app to report their precinct’s votes. The New York Times reported that the app was ” not properly tested at a statewide scale,” adding that it was hastily put together in recent months after another phone call-based tabulation solution was rejected.

The morning after voting ended, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price said in a statement that “As precinct caucus results started coming in, the IDP ran them through an accuracy and quality check. It became clear that there were inconsistencies with the reports. The underlying cause of these inconsistencies was not immediately clear and required investigation, which took time. ” He assured that there was no indication that the reporting system was subjected to a cyberattack or intrusion. He noted that the underlying data was sound and the inconsistencies were introduced in the method of reporting the results.

The first results were not reported by the party until the afternoon after voting ended, and those results were partial. County chairs reported trouble using or downloading the app, and massive wait times on the backup phone lines used for reporting and help with the app. A New York Times investigation revealed that “more than 100 precincts reported results that were internally inconsistent, that were missing data or that were not possible under the complex rules of the Iowa caucuses.”

The app was created by Shadow, Inc., a for-profit company. The upcoming Nevada caucus was also set to use technology provided by the same company. No litigation has yet resulted from the results reporting issues, but the delays caused chaos as Americans eagerly awaited the first contest in the 2020 Presidential election.

While the app in Iowa was only used to tabulate votes, voters in King County, Washington and the state of West Virginia will be able to vote directly using an app in upcoming elections.