Democratic Party caucus app feature photo ELECTION SECURITY Despite Iowa Caucus Fiasco, Nevada Democrats Plan to Use New Software “Tool”
Though the fallout from the Iowa Caucus is still fresh, it appears that the technology-driven chaos and corruption seen in Iowa have not served as a warning to the Nevada Democratic Party.
Even while the chaos of the recent Iowa Caucus remains fresh in voters’ minds, the Nevada State Democratic Party is setting itself up for more of the same by using a new software application for reporting results that is set to be coded and tested in less than a month. The application, still currently under development, will come preloaded onto iPads that will be distributed to precinct chairs during Nevada’s upcoming caucus, scheduled for February 22.
The scramble to create this new application followed revelations that the same company that had developed the software largely blamed for the Iowa debacle – known as Shadow Inc. – had also developed the two applications that Nevada Democrats had planned to use both for early voting and for Caucus Day.
Volunteers for Nevada’s upcoming caucus were told at a recent training session about the software’s existence and the rough details of how it will operate, but very little other information according to a report in the Nevada Independent. Notably, volunteers were urged not to refer to the application as an “app” but instead as a “tool,” likely due to the fact that Nevada Democrats said they would not use any apps for their upcoming caucus in light of what happened in Iowa. CBS News previously reported on the existence of this “tool” last Friday but was also short on specifics.
During the volunteer training session, a party staffer told participants the following:
What we’ve done after Iowa is consult with a group of tech and security folks who are helping us through this process and making sure that we’re doing this in a way that is simple and efficient and secure for all of you so that we’re giving you the best tools we can possible on Caucus Day. (emphasis added)”
Then the staffer, whose comments were recorded and were first reported by the Nevada Independent, described the function of this “tool” as “flow[ing] your precinct early vote data, so that you can have the information for your precinct caucus, so that when you do your viability calculations, you’re able to get the number of people who voted early and then when you see the results of your first alignment, you’re able to key in that early vote information so that you have every piece of information you need to run your precinct caucus.”
When a volunteer asked the staffer how the software “tool” would transmit results from one place to another, the staffer did not provide details but instead stated that “… We’re still working out some of the details around those so I’ll make sure that everyone has more information as we’re able to share it.”
Nevada’s decision to use a software program to be developed in less than a month is jarring considering that the failure of Iowa’s caucus was blamed on the rushed development of the Shadow Inc.-created app that resulted in only partial results of the caucus being reported. Yet, the Shadow Inc. app was reported to have been developed over a period of roughly two months, though the company’s CEO, Gerard Niemira, has since claimed that the app’s creation began last August. In contrast, Nevada Democrats are now slated to use a software application developed in less than half that time, thereby raising the likelihood of undiscovered coding errors and other functionality issues of this app significantly.
Another issue is the fact that Nevada Democrats decided to go this route after consulting “a group of tech and security folks” whose names and affiliations were not provided. As previously mentioned, after the Iowa debacle, several media reports quoted technology and cybersecurity experts as well as software developers who had cited the rushed development of the Shadow Inc. app as having largely led to the app’s failure and the resulting chaos in Iowa. It thus seems odd that a group of “tech and security folks” are urging Nevada Democrats to pay for the development of a new program in an even shorter time frame as a way to prevent Nevada’s caucus from repeating Iowa’s failures.
Though the identity of this group remains unknown, concerns have been raised that some may have links to the 2020 presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg, given that the Shadow Inc.-developed app used in Iowa was found to have ties to the Buttigieg campaign and the Iowa caucus chaos clearly benefited the Buttigieg campaign.
Concerns about possible connections between these tech and security consultants and the Buttigieg campaign have only grown since it was revealed that Nevada Democrats recently hired an organizer for Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, Emily Goldman, as the Caucus’ Voter Protection Director, just weeks before the caucus is set to take place. Goldman also previously interned at the Brookings Institute, whose chair recently authored a piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Stop Bernie Sanders Now.” After Goldman’s connections to the Buttigieg were revealed, she deleted her work history on LinkedIn and locked her Twitter account.
So Emily Goodman, the paid Buttigieg campaign insider now "Voter Protection Director" for the Nevada caucus used to work at the Brookings Institute, one of whose Chairs wrote an article today called "Stop Bernie Sanders Now."
— Alan MacLeod (@AlanRMacLeod) February 10, 2020
Goldman’s new position at the Nevada State Democratic Party tasks her with “ensur[ing] that all eligible Nevadans are able to cast their ballot.”
Given the rushed development of a new app, the lack of transparency regarding the Nevada Democrats’ technology consultants and Emily Goldman’s recent hire, concerns that Nevada’s upcoming caucus will repeat the chaos seen in Iowa have hardly been assuaged.
Worse still, the very volunteers who attended the recent caucus training workshop described the sentiment in the room as “frustration and confusion”, with one caucus site leader telling the Nevada Independent that “there was ‘not a bit of proof’ at the training that Nevada wouldn’t be another Iowa.” Another volunteer told the Nevada Independent that “the people participating in the training didn’t even seem to understand the basic details of how to carry out the caucus process and didn’t know that precinct chairs can’t also be precinct captains on behalf of a campaign,” while other volunteers said they were not told how to properly realign early voters’ preferences on Caucus Day should the new tool fail.
Though the fallout from the Iowa Caucus is still fresh, it appears that the technology-driven chaos and corruption seen in Iowa have not served as a warning to some in the Democratic Party, but instead a roadmap.
Feature photo | A precinct captain from Des Moines, Iowa, holds his iPhone that shows the Iowa Democratic Party’s caucus reporting app. On Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Charlie Neibergall | AP