- Tech problems played a role throughout the botched Democratic primary caucus in Iowa on February 3.
- A smartphone app developed specifically for registering results and largely untested before being deployed, encountered major hitches during the caucus.
- But beyond the app, the Iowa Democratic caucus was plagued by various tech issues, including an inability to operate Google Sheets and two-factor authorization tripping up counts, The New York Times reports.
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One week later, and the first Democratic primary election of 2020 remains undecided.
Over the course of the last seven days, technical issues in Iowa have led to a delay in reporting who actually won. Several candidates have requested districts be recanvassed, echoing demands made by Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez.
As of Monday morning, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former mayor Pete Buttigieg are both leading the pack. But issues with the Iowa caucus results persist – there is still no clear winner.
Those issues are due in part to major tech issues, including a coding issue with an app that was developed explicitly for reporting caucus results. But a new report in The New York Times on Monday reveals that Iowa’s Democratic caucus had myriad tech issues.
Among them: the state party’s chief financial officer, Melissa Watson, “did not know how to operate a Google spreadsheet application used to input data,” the Times report says. Though it’s not spelled out, the application in question is likely Google Sheets – Google’s version of Microsoft Excel.
Watson didn’t respond to a request for comment as of publishing.
Beyond that issue, at least one other major tech hitch reportedly happened.
As a security measure, Iowa volunteers in Des Moines weren’t allowed to bring their smartphones into the counting room. But the computers they were using were set up with two-factor authentication, which required those volunteers to have their smartphones in order to retrieve the code that would verify they were who they said they were.
Since they didn’t have their smartphones, the report says, “volunteers resorted to passing around a spare iPad” to get logged in.
The tech issues were far from the only problems with the Iowa Democratic caucus, but they’re representative of the bigger issues plaguing Democrats leading into the 2020 US Presidential election.
Starting on February 3, and continuing through the last week, the story of the Iowa Democratic caucus has been one of disorganization. The app used for reporting caucus results faced coding issues, and when volunteers resorted to manually calling in results, they encountered hours-long wait times – which was exacerbated by Trump supporters intentionally clogging up the lines.
The tech startup that created the app, Shadow, was also signed on for the upcoming Nevada caucus, but has since been dropped. In the wake of the Iowa caucus, Democratic leaders have vowed to employ different methods in upcoming primary elections in Nevada and elsewhere.
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