“The app wasn’t included in the chair training that everyone was required to take.”
Everything I write about in this post will no doubt add to conspiracy theories surrounding the Iowa caucuses.
After all, it centers around failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The App at the Center of Ruckus
Let’s first look at the app to count votes used by the Democratic Party. The people behind the app used to work for Hillary’s campaign:
- CEO Gerard Niemira
- Product manager Ahna Rao
- CTO Krista Davis
- COO James Hickey
The caucus app blamed for the Iowa vote count chaos was created by tech firm Shadow, Inc.
Shadow’s CEO Gerard Niemira, product manager Ahna Rao, CTO Krista Davis, and COO James Hickey all worked on the Hillary for America campaign. pic.twitter.com/hA0JPYX5Ig
— Michael Coudrey (@MichaelCoudrey) February 4, 2020
The firm Shadow developed the app, which is “an affiliate of ACRONYM, a Democratic nonprofit founded in 2017 ‘to educate, inspire, register, and mobilize voters,’ according to its website.”
Sources told The New York Times that people put together the app “in just the past two months.”
The party decided to use the app after the Democratic National Committee officials decided not to allow “participants call in their votes over the phone.”
Plus Democratic officials did not tell anyone about Shadow’s involvement in the caucuses.
Does it shock anyone that the party will use the app in the Nevada caucuses? Yeah, didn’t think so.
Major Coding Errors
The Iowa Democratic Party insists no one hacked or intruded the app. Instead, a major coding error caused problems:
As part of our investigation, we determined with certainty that the underlying data collected via the app was sound. While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed. The application’s reporting issue did not impact the ability of precinct chairs to report data accurately.
Because of the required paper documentation, we have been able to verify that the data recorded in the app and used to calculate State Delegate Equivalents is valid and accurate. Precinct level results are still being reported to the IDP. While our plan is to release results as soon as possible today, our ultimate goal is to ensure that the integrity and accuracy of the process continues to be upheld.
No App Training
For some stupid reason, the Democratic Party did not include app training for the caucus chairs. They claim they did, but others disagree:
Linda Nelson, a Democratic caucus chair in Pottawattamie County, tells CNN that precinct chairs did not receive training because the app wasn’t ready.
Zach Simons, the party chair in Wapello county, told The New York Times: “The app wasn’t included in the chair training that everyone was required to take.”
In Des Moines, Polk County Democratic Chairman Sean Bagniewski told CNN that app problems actually surfaced last week during testing. When some precinct chairs reported trouble last Thursday, Bagniewski he told those who couldn’t get the app to work to call in their results to the Iowa Democratic Party as they had in previous years.
“When you have an app that you’re sending out to 1,700 people and many of them might be newer to apps and that kind of stuff, it might have been worth doing a couple months’ worth of testing,” Bagniewski told The New York Times.
Iowa State Senator Pam Jochum chaired precinct 14 in Dubuque. She said the caucus went smoothly, but she never used the app because she could not download it. To top things off she said she “could not get support from party officials to resolve issues with the app up to a week before the caucuses.”
They were too busy to help Jochum.
Bill Brauch, caucus chair for precinct 59, had to use a backchannel:
But on the night of the caucus, about 30 minutes before counting began, Brauch tested it again and a “glitch” made it so that only the left side of his iPad keyboard popped up, meaning he could only type numbers and letters on the left. That, obviously, made it impossible to use.
Brauch called the Democratic Party hotline and was told to change on setting and “unload the app and then reload it.”
“That required me to access my Apple password, which I did not have with me, so at that point that app wasn’t on my iPad,” he said with a slight laugh, meaning when people began caucusing at his site, they had no app to use.
Brauch then turned to the traditional way – over the phone – but was initially put on hold for 15 minutes before hanging up.
He then opted to use a backchannel he had to the Iowa Democratic Party’s boiler room. His caucus secretary knew someone in the room, so she called the person and they reported the data that way – via a backchannel, not on the official hotline.
“We were lucky that we had that inside person,” he said. “We had unique access because of that relationship.”
“The whole thing is disappointing to me,” he said. “The caucus itself ran smoothly, the new slightly revised rules and the presidential preference cards were not a problem, we found a way to do it in a way that was organized. And people had a good experience at the caucus.”
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