The App Used at the Iowa Caucuses Failed

I find it absolutely fascinating that the Iowa caucuses, which run on paper, had problems due to the failure of the app the Iowa Democratic Party selected. CNBC described the situation as representing “one of the most stunning failures of information security ever”.

The Iowa caucuses have always been as low-tech as one could possibly get. People physically stand in an area designated for the candidate they want to support. Everyone is counted. Numbers are literally written down on paper. After some math is done (also on paper), there is a second vote – minus the candidates that did not get enough support to be viable. Once again, someone counts the people, writes down the totals, and that determines the number of delegates each candidate receives.

The problem isn’t with this process, which has worked well in the past. Instead, the problem is entirely with an app that the Democratic National Committee recommended Iowa stop using altogether.

The New York Times reported that the app was “quickly put together in just the past two months.” Precinct captains had difficulty getting the app to function properly. From what I’ve read, it appears that the app would crash, or was not sending the full results to the Iowa Democratic Party. People resorted to calling in the results – which was standard practice previous to this year’s Iowa caucus. Some experienced hold delays of up to an hour.

In addition, the Iowa Democratic Party stated: “We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results.” Spokeswoman Mandy McClure assured people the app didn’t go down and was not hacked. It is very fortunate that all of the data from the Iowa caucuses had been written down on paper. That information is still accessible.

This situation serves as an example of why it isn’t smart to report votes via an app. Things can get glitchy. Voting on paper is way more secure than electronic voting. We should be shifting back to that – nationwide.