As Nevadans pepare to begin early voting from February 15-18 in the state's 2020 Democratic presidential primary caucuses, reporting about an app set to be used in the contest is raising serious questions around the process and whether the Democratic Party learned anything from the debacle that was the Iowa caucuses earlier this month.
"Apparently the solution to count votes in caucuses is to...continue to use untested software and roll it out just before a major election," tweeted Washington Post reporter Hamza Shaban.
After the Iowa caucuses descended into chaos due in no small part to the use of an app designed by Democratic consulting firm Acronym's Shadow, Inc. subsidiary, Nevada Democratic Party officials promised they would not use the same technology—instead shifting their focus to building out a useable replacement in a matter of weeks.
American Prospect reporter Brittany Gibson found Wednesday that many of the errors which surrounded deployment of the Iowa app are being repeated in Nevada.
On February 8, the presidential campaigns were told that the Nevada caucus sites would now use a "tool," which would be pre-loaded onto iPads at the causes sites, and not connected to the internet, to record results. Unlike the original app, which was commissioned for $60,000, the tool would supposedly work more like a calculator. But aside from the lack of internet connectivity, the party did not explain the difference between the failed app and the new tool. It also did not disclose who made it.
Voting rights group Verified Voting president Marian Schneider told Gibson she was wary of the app and how it was being designed and deployed.
"Technology needs proper planning, proper testing, and proper training," said Scheider. "Those are the key ingredients."
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As Recode reported, it's unclear how much training party officials have on the new tool:
The Nevada State Democratic Party told Recode that it has over 3,000 volunteers and 300 site leads who are "actively receiving robust training." The statement not did provide any details beyond this, nor did it address the non-app tool. Nevada might have learned a few lessons from Iowa regarding which app vendors to trust, but it doesn't appear to have learned that transparency is an essential part of the democratic process.
The party did reveal that paper would be used as a back-up to the tool to ensure the veracity of results.
Nevada Independent reporter Megan Messerly shared a photo of the paper ballot on Twitter Wednesday.
For those curious what the scannable paper early vote ballot for Nevada’s caucus is going to look like, this is what folks are being shown during volunteer training webinars. pic.twitter.com/Qt8QtjFaPi— Megan Messerly (@meganmesserly) February 13, 2020
On February 8, Messerly was told by a caucus volunteer that the ongoing drama was damaging the process.
"For me, I volunteered to do this because I'm a loyal Democrat, and there's nothing more I want to do than defeat Donald Trump," said volunteer site leader Seth Morrison. "But if we allow this to go down and it's another Iowa, what does this do for my party?"