Tech Wednesday - Iowa Caucus Edition


  • Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) had not reported official vote totals in the Iowa Caucuses as of early Tuesday morning
  • This is an unprecedented delay, Democratic campaign officials are livid and many questions have been raised about the legitimacy of the event
  • "We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results," the IDP said in a statement Monday evening
  • IDP further said "In addition to the tech systems being used to tabulate results, we are also using photos of results and a paper trail to validate that all results match and ensure that we have confidence and accuracy in the numbers we report. This is simply a reporting issue. The app did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion. The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results."
  • Biden's campaign said "The app that was intended to relay Caucus results to the Party failed; the Party’s back-up telephonic reporting system likewise has failed"
  • Shadow, a tech company affiliated with and funded by Acronym, is a Democratic leaning company that built the app known as "IowaReporterApp"
  • Iowa Democratic Party finance records indicated that Shadow was paid $60,000 the app that caucus site leaders were supposed to use to upload results
  • On Monday, Democrats in Iowa reported issues attempting to download the app and/or upload results
  • Some called results in to the state party headquarters in Des Moines
  • "While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data" - Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price
  • “We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed.”- Price
  • The party used paper documentation to verify that the data collected by the app is "valid and accurate"
  • As of 6:30 AM on 02/05/2020 the full results had still not be released
  • Iowa Democrats were reportedly warned last week that there were serious problems with the app designed to report caucus results to the party
  • "The app wasn’t included in the chair training that everyone was required to take" said Zach Simonson, the Democratic Party chair in Wapello County
  • Cybersecurity experts worried that it had not been vetted, tested at scale, or even shown to independent experts before being introduced in Iowa
  • Little was known about the app despite being profiles by NPR in January. It is the first-of-its-kind and was used despite concerns of hacking
  • Christopher C. Krebs, the director of the Homeland Security Department’s cybersecurity agency, said late Monday that the mobile app had not been vetted or evaluated by the agency
  • "No one hacked into it, so this is more of a stress or a load issue, as well as a reporting issue that we’re seeing in Iowa. But what I would say is that, given the amount of scrutiny that we have on election security these days, this is a concerning event, and it really goes to the public confidence of our elections" - acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf
  • "We are validating every piece of data we have against our paper trail. That system is taking longer than expected,” he said, “but it’s in place to ensure we are eventually able to report results with full confidence" - Price
  • "We were really concerned about the fact there was so much opacity. I said over and over again trust is the product of transparency times communication. The DNC steadfastly refused to offer any transparency. It was hard to know what to expect except the worst" Gregory Miller, cofounder of the Open Source Election Technology Institute, which publicly warned the IDP against using the app weeks ago
  • "The situation with Iowa’s caucus reveals the risks associated with technology, in this case with a mobile app, but more importantly that there needs to be a low-tech solution in order to recover from technological failures — no matter the cause" Marian K. Schneider of Verified Voting
  • The Nevada Democratic Party, scheduled to hold the next Democratic caucus on Feb. 22, has also paid Shadow for website development
  • Motherboard successfully downloaded and installed the app onto two Android phones; it only ran on one
  • OSINT reveals that many people who have identified themselves as Shadow employees on LinkedIn previously worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign
  • NPR Article:https://www.npr.org/2020/01/14/795906732/despite-election-security-fears-iowa-caucuses-will-use-new-smartphone-app