Politics

Democrats say they won't use the app involved in Iowa debacle in Nevada 'or anywhere else'

Key Points
  • The chair of the Democratic National Committee said on Tuesday that Democrats will not use the app involved in the disastrous Iowa caucuses for the Nevada election contest scheduled for Feb. 22 after reports showed that the state party had paid the technology firm behind it nearly $60,000 last year.
  • "It is clear that the app in question did not function adequately. It will not be used in Nevada or anywhere else during the primary election process," DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.
  • The app used in the Iowa caucuses was developed by the progressive tech firm Shadow Inc., which is managed by a nonprofit investment company called Acronym.
Caucus participants arrive to register in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. February 3, 2020.
Brian Snyder | Reuters

The chair of the Democratic National Committee said on Tuesday that Democrats will not use the app involved in the disastrous Iowa caucuses for the Nevada election contest scheduled for Feb. 22 after reports showed that the state party had paid the technology firm behind it nearly $60,000 last year.

"What happened last night should never happen again. We have staff working around the clock to assist the Iowa Democratic Party to ensure that all votes are counted," DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

"It is clear that the app in question did not function adequately. It will not be used in Nevada or anywhere else during the primary election process," Perez said. "The technology vendor must provide absolute transparent accounting of what went wrong."

Perez's statement came hours after the Nevada Democratic Party said it would not use "the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus."

State party chair William McCurdy said in a statement that the organization had "already developed a series of backups and redundant reporting systems, and are currently evaluating the best path forward."

The app used in the Iowa caucuses was developed by the progressive tech firm Shadow Inc., which is managed by a nonprofit investment company called Acronym.

Read more: Iowa caucus debacle is one of the most stunning tech failures ever

Election officials detected irregularities in voting data during the first-in-the-nation caucuses on Monday which required them to switch to counting votes manually.

The issue delayed the reporting of the first results of the Democratic presidential primary, sowing confusion about the state of the closely fought race and earning the ire of the major contenders, who all projected confidence in election night speeches despite the dearth of official data.

Partial data released by the Iowa Democratic Party Tuesday afternoon, reflecting 62% of the state's precincts, showed South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders vying for first place. The party did not say when the full data will be released. 

Acronym sought to distance itself from the debacle, issuing a statement saying that "we, like everyone else, are eagerly awaiting more information."

Shadow wrote in a post on Twitter on Tuesday that it regretted the delayed reporting of the Iowa caucus results.

"As the Iowa Democratic Party has confirmed, the underlying data and collection process via Shadow's mobile caucus app was sound and accurate, but our process to transmit that caucus results data generated via the app to the IDP was not," the company wrote. The company said it was "committed to improving and evolving to support the Democratic Party's goal of modernizing its election processes."

Ahead of the caucuses, concerns about the app were already mounting, compounding criticism of a primary process that for decades has given outsized influence to a relatively homogeneous state with a population just north of 3 million people.

In August, the Democratic National Committee recommended Iowa and Nevada scrap the mobile-based vote process.

The Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to follow those recommendations. It said a security review had determined the app did not meet standards for cybersecurity and reliability.

DHS acting Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News on Tuesday that the app "was not vetted for cybersecurity." But despite those concerns, both states pushed forward with the using the application.

The parties in those states were largely silent in the run-up to the Iowa caucus about who developed the app.

Microsoft had previously designed a voting app used in Iowa in 2016, but the company did not have a hand in creating the 2020 app, a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC.

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