Precinct 68 Iowa Caucus voters seated in the Biden section hold up their first votes as they of the caucus as they are counted at the Knapp Center on the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
After the Iowa caucus dumpster fire it was reported that the Nevada Democratic Party had hired the same app company, Shadow Inc., to provide an app for their February 22 caucus. Party officials quickly said they would not use the app, and assured the party and the public that they had “previously created backup plans for its reporting systems and [were] in the process of ‘evaluating the best path forward.'”
That “best path forward”? A “caucus calculator” consisting of a Google form accessible through a saved link on a party-supplied iPad, reported to the “war room” from each precinct via internet connections of questionable security.
Three anonymous caucus volunteers spoke with Politico on Saturday, with one characterizing the first two hours of early voting as “disastrous… as volunteers struggled to get iPads to function properly and connect to the Internet.”
Apparently those previously-created backup plans were as well-tested as Shadow’s app.
The Nevada Democratic Party, according to one of Politico’s sources, held a training for precinct captains late last week that didn’t even mention the Google form or how to use it, and the iPads were only mentioned in response to a question from a volunteer who “asked how early vote totals would be added to the totals compiled live at each precinct. The person leading the training said not to worry because the iPads would do the math for them.”
“There were old ladies looking at me like, ‘Oh, we’re going to have iPads,’” the volunteer told POLITICO.
That’s not exactly confidence-inducing.
Another volunteer said that once updated training was available late last week, the entire process “‘diverged significantly’ from the initial training. ‘We were practically starting from scratch.'”
On Friday, just one day before early voting began (which is even more complicated in a caucus), the party was still looking for tech help – on a volunteer basis. What? Where are the professionals or even the people from Shadow who made millions of dollars to produce unusable crap? Of course, it’s likely that no one wants those posers anywhere near a voting system. But the thought of using technical volunteers to help ensure a smooth caucus is baffling. At least one campaign is already questioning this system, according to Politico:
The Nevada Democratic Party undercut the confidence of at least one Democratic campaign when it sent a callout — circulated on Twitter on Friday — for “technical volunteers” to “pair” with precinct chairs on caucus day.
A state party official said they are recruiting volunteers to “help troubleshoot any issues in real time with our precinct chairs” and that it is typical to recruit volunteers up until the final day before the caucuses.
Typical to recruit volunteers, yes. Typical to recruit volunteers – on Twitter – who will be in charge operating vital technology and who will literally have access to the ballot box? Not so much.
There’s also the problem of ambiguous procedures in many aspects of the vote tallying, but especially in how the early votes will be handled.
A senior adviser to that presidential campaign also said it is “not entirely clear” how vote totals from 80 early-voting sites will be allocated to the 2,000 caucus precincts.
Campaigns are expecting an invitation to witness the transmission of early-vote totals to individual precinct sites. “But where it’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen and how it’s going to happen is totally undefined,” the adviser said.
Anyone who’s traveled to Nevada knows that outside of Las Vegas and Reno, Wifi or other tech conveniences are rare. So, is there a plan to deal with a lack of Wifi?
If a connection at any location fails, the iPads are equipped with 4G cellular service, according to a state party official. That means each of the 2,000 iPads the party bought has a paid cellular subscription.
But questions remain about the security of Wi-Fi being used at each location. The Nevada Democratic Party said it has tested the connections, but it’s unclear whether Internet access at each precinct will be provided via a hotspot or a network provided by the host site, such as a high school.
Not to worry; if all else fails the precinct captains can call in the numbers, which the iPad might or might not have tallied correctly if the Wifi was spotty.
In addition to the extremely confusing vote-tallying procedure described in excruciating detail in the Politico piece, all signs point to a complete cluster***k next weekend in Nevada. Picture attending a family reunion with thousands of people who are all trying to put together a set of Ikea furniture while looking up instructions on an iPad.
It’s almost enough to make one feel empathy for the mainstream media reporters who’ll be tasked with giving live reports on caucus day.
At least one volunteer, Seth Morrison, was willing to go public and put his name behind his complaints. Appearing on CNN Saturday, he encouraged everyone to vote early, saying it will “minimize many of the risks that we’ll be talking about.”
“We're counting on this untested tool that we haven't been trained on,” Seth Morrison, a Nevada caucuses site leader, says as early voting starts today.
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) February 15, 2020
After noting that they were going to be using an “untested software tool in the caucus room,” the anchor asked Morrison how “the training is going on this new process.”
“We have had a lot of training on the broad process. We have never seen or handled this tool. They keep telling us as early as last night that, ‘we’ll show it to you when it is ready.'”
What does the Nevada Democratic Party have to say?
Others with more intimate knowledge of the process…contend that backup systems are in place in the event of any technical snafus. The two methods of vote-reporting — the Google form and a telephone hotline — will ensure accurate results reach the war room, they said.
So, they’ve got it handled. Caucus with confidence??