Nevada Democrats dump app that caused Iowa’s caucus meltdown

February 4, 2020, 9:55 PM UTC

For their state caucus later this month, Nevada Democrats had planned to use the same smartphone app as Iowa to report votes. But after Iowa Democrats experienced major problems with their app on Monday night, delaying the final results by at least a day, Nevada has decided to change course.  

“We will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus,” Nevada Democratic Party chair William McCurdy II said in a public statement on Tuesday.

Nevada’s reversal is just the latest in a string of problems that started in Iowa late Monday night, when many of precinct captains were unable use a new app to report vote results. The Iowa Democratic Party blamed the app, created by a company called Shadow, for the difficulties that sparked criticism about preparations for what is the nation’s first real test in the 2020 presidential race.

The IDP had declined to share much information about Shadow before the election, and the initial confusion surrounding the Iowa results led to baseless speculation that the app may have been hacked.

In a statement, the IDP said that while there was no indication of hacking, the results it received through the app didn’t match an independent check, and that though the app “was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data.”

Shadow apologized on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon and echoed the IDP’s assessment, writing “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.”

McCurdy, the Nevada party official, gave few details about what’s next for the state’s caucus, scheduled for February 22. He merely said that the Democratic Party “had already developed a series of backups and redundant reporting systems” to Shadow’s app and that his organization is “currently evaluating the best path forward.”

While Shadow said it had submitted its app for an independent security review, that review has not been made public. The Department of Homeland Security, which offers a number of free cybersecurity auditing services to elections systems, said that the IDP could have submitted the app for a review but chose not to.

“There’s no evidence that Iowa app was hacked or manipulated in any way, but that’s not the impression many voters were left with. The impression of insecurity can be just as damaging as insecurity itself,” said Jessica Brandt, head of policy and research at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan group that fights attempts to undermine democracy.

“Obviously our election officials need to be on high alert for actual intrusions, but they also need to guard against glitches and malfunctions that diminish confidence in the system despite it being sound,” she told Fortune. “Because those glitches generate exactly the kind of confusion that fuels conspiracy theories and misinformation.”

Last weekend, in two concurrent meetings of state election chiefs, secretaries of states met about how to combat election misinformation, fearing that it could shake voters’ confidence in the Democratic system.

On Tuesday, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican and the state’s chief election official, declared his support for the Democrats moving slowly to get a full count. Iowa Democrats said they planned to release results of some votes sometime late Tuesday. 

“The accuracy of the Iowa Democratic Party’s vote totals is much more important than the timeliness of releasing the results,” Pate wrote. “I support IDP while they take their time and conduct checks and balances to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the votes.”

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