Here's Everything We Know About the App That Reportedly Disrupted the Iowa Caucus
Topline: Monday night’s Iowa caucuses dragged into the early hours of Tuesday with no clear Democratic winner declared, and the New York Times reported that a brand-new, untested mobile app designed in just two months was at least partially to blame for the holdup in results.
- The app was designed and built for the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) by political tech firm Shadow, and was intended to add up and report the caucus vote at each precinct.
- The Times reported, however, that several IDP county chairs said the app was giving them trouble, and when they attempted to use a telephone hotline to call in results, the wait time was up to an hour.
- As caucus voting dragged on last night, the IDP released a statement denying that the app did not go down, and that “the underlying data and paper trail is sound.”
- However, the Wall Street Journal reported that cybersecurity experts were alarmed by the IDP not publicly disclosing the app maker, and, citing unnamed sources, said that IDP officials did not take up the Department of Homeland Security’s offer to security test the app.
- The Times reported that there were concerns the app would malfunction due to poor connectivity or a lack of bandwidth, citing an unnamed person familiar with the app.
- The campaigns have reported their unverified, internal numbers: Bernie Sanders’ camp claimed about 29% of delegates and Pete Buttigieg’s said they were on the path to victory, while a Warren spokesperson said it was close between Warren, Sanders and Biden; Amy Klobuchar tweeted “we are punching above our weight and we are surging!.”
What to watch for: The IDP expects to formally announce results some time Tuesday. And the Nevada Democratic Party is expecting to use a similar mobile app during its caucus later this month.
Big number: $63,000. That’s how much the IDP paid Shadow to develop the app, according to the Wall Street Journal. Other Democratic candidates have also used Shadow for campaign work. According to Federal Election Commission filings, Buttigieg paid Shadow $42,500 for “software rights and subscriptions.” Both Joe Biden and former contender Kirsten Gillibrand paid Shadow for campaign work—$1,225 and $37,400 respectively.
Reminder: This is the second snafu for the Iowa caucus. Saturday night’s Des Moines Register/CNN poll results were withheld after Buttigieg’s campaign complained his name was left off a telephone survey earlier in the week. And the Washington Post said that the 2016 IDP caucus results between Hillary Clinton and Sanders were not announced for hours, with Clinton finally emerging the victor with a half of a percentage point in her favor.
Key background: Shadow, a startup founded by former Hillary Clinton campaign staffers Gerard Niemira and Krista Davis, is attached to progressive nonprofit Acronym, an investor. (Acronym was founded by former Barack Obama campaign staffer and journalist Tara McGowan.) The IDP said last month it wanted to use the app, according to the WSJ, because it would be a quicker way to tabulate the caucus results from the state’s nearly 1,700 precincts.
News peg: For the first time, the Democratic party will release three different results tallied during each stage of Iowa’s unusual caucusing process. The “first alignment” result will show caucus-goers’ preferences in the first round of voting (this is equivalent to the popular vote in the state). The “final alignment” is taken after candidates who don’t get at least 15% of the vote are eliminated and voters who supported those candidates shift their vote to “viable” contenders still in the running. After applying a formula to the final alignment results, a “State Delegate Equivalent” will be calculated, which is the number of delegates each candidate will get at Iowa’s statewide convention. Whoever gets the highest State Delegate Equivalent wins Iowa, and that number is proportionally translated into how many of the state’s 41 national delegates each candidate gets.
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