Iowa caucus app shows risk of using new technology

Hannah Holliday | Cartoonist

The Iowa caucus results were delayed for days due to the malfunction of an app used to record votes. Throwing out traditional vote-counting methods at first opportunity for the next latest and greatest thing ideally makes life easier. However, implementing a new system should be a gradual process.

The app IowaRecorder was meant to speed up the counting process so results could come in faster than ever. Instead, it quickly caused more harm than good with vote totals not being recorded or uploaded correctly.

Vote reporters soon tried to revert to traditional methods of calling in vote totals, but the lines were severely understaffed. Many people were on hold for about an hour before eventually giving up and going to bed with intentions to call again in the morning.

The app should not have been the primary vote-counting method for the first caucus. Instead, the Iowa caucus should have been a test run to see how the app functions and test its accuracy and timing compared to low-tech counting methods.

The Nevada caucus, set for Feb. 22, was supposed to follow Iowa by recording votes by app with the same development company, but has since ceased those plans after already paying thousands of dollars. Nevada has also taken extreme caution in providing backups and redundancies so that what happened in Iowa does not repeat itself.

The main problem with the app is how fast it was created and put into the hands of voters. The app’s development took a total of two months, and the Iowa Democratic Party turned down an offer from the Department of Homeland Security to test the app in advance.

Since the app’s failure on Monday night, it has gone under further review by ProPublica, which revealed that while there were no outside influences involved, the app was very vulnerable to potential hacking.

The Iowa Democratic Party and the app’s developers were negligent in their attempt to digitize the voting system by carelessly failing to ensure the safety of the votes the app was supposed to record. Having a fast vote count is helpful, but valuing speed over accuracy from the first Democratic caucus vote in the 2020 presidential election is unfair to voters.

Moving forward, if caucus organizers want to continue incorporating the use of apps into the voting system, they must be willing to go at a slower pace to fully check their functionality.

If the Iowa caucus had used their app as a backup to traditionally recorded counts, the voting totals would have come in later at night, but the counts would have been more accurate and given the app’s developers a chance to test their software and see where improvements need to be made.

Instead, counts are being retaken by hand and new problems are occurring while the caucus continues to attempt to sift through the app.

By using proven, accurate methods of counting rather than an untested, quick approach, the caucus would have results and tech developers could make strides toward creating innovative and functional technology.