POLITICS

The Guy Who Developed The Iowa Caucuses App Feels Super Bad, You Guys

Shadow Inc. CEO Gerard Niemira is owning his mistakes.

The guy whose company built the app that tanked the Iowa caucuses wants you to know he feels really, really bad about the whole ordeal.

Shadow Inc. CEO Gerard Niemira told Bloomberg Tuesday the company had scrutinized its caucus app, a purpose-built piece of software intended to speed up the reporting process, and found a bug that ended up having the opposite effect.

The bug wasn’t in the app itself (though he conceded there’s room for improvement there), but in the code that relayed data tabulated by the app from a caucus chair’s phone to the state party.

“The app was sound and good,” Niemira said. “All the data that was produced by calculations performed by the app was correct. It did the job it was supposed to do, which is help precinct chairs in the field do the math correctly. The problem was caused by a bug in the code that transmits results data into the state party’s data warehouse.”

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price confirmed that diagnosis in a separate statement. Price also emphasized the underlying data recorded and reported by caucus chairs was independently verified as “valid and accurate” thanks to backup paper documentation.

Precinct captain Carl Voss of Des Moines displays the Iowa Democratic Party caucus reporting app on his phone outside of the
Precinct captain Carl Voss of Des Moines displays the Iowa Democratic Party caucus reporting app on his phone outside of the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020.

Shadow’s post-mortem found logging in to the app proved to be another issue. While caucus chairs had successfully practiced using the app in the weeks leading up to the caucus, security steps implemented for the official caucuses the night of proved insurmountable for some volunteers.

Niemira told Bloomberg users had to input two different unique identifying numbers and use two-factor authentication. The steps were intended to secure the system against foreign interference, but unintentionally also disrupted its intended domestic use.

According to The Associated Press, all of Shadow’s top executives hail from the Clinton campaign’s 2016 digital operation. That includes Niemira, who worked as director of product.

Ultimately, said Niemira, the blunder was theirs ― and theirs alone.

“Yes, it was anticipate-able. Yes, we put in measures to test it. Yes, it still failed. And we own that.”

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