POLITICS

Nevada Democrats Ditch App That Caused Chaos In Iowa Caucuses

The state was set to use the same app that caused so many problems in Iowa's caucuses, but decided to change course Tuesday.

The Nevada Democratic Party has decided not to use the app that caused so many problems for the Iowa caucuses Monday night. 

We will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus,” Nevada Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II said Tuesday. “We had already developed a series of backups and redundant reporting systems, and are currently evaluating the best path forward.”

“NV Dems can confidently say that what happened in the Iowa caucus last night will not happen in Nevada on February 22nd,” he added.

As HuffPost first reported Monday night, the Iowa Democratic Party paid the company Shadow more than $60,000 to develop an app that was supposed to make it easier and quicker for precinct officials to transmit caucus results.

But that process didn’t quite go as planned. Numerous Democrats reported major problems in attempting to download the application and upload results, with many saying they resorted to calling the results into an overloaded and unresponsive hotline at state party headquarters in Des Moines.

The Nevada Democratic Party was set to use that same technology for its own caucuses on Feb. 22, quickly setting off alarm bells among activists and party officials after the mess in Iowa. One of the benefits of not going first is that Nevada officials are able to look at what happened on Monday and try to make sure it doesn’t go wrong again.

The Iowa Democratic Party still has not released any caucus results, and it’s not clear when it will.

And even before Monday night’s problems, cybersecurity experts raised concerns that the smartphone technology was not secure enough to use for something as sensitive as election results. The state party also refused to release the name of the app developer or what security measures it was undertaking, claiming it would make it more vulnerable to hackers.

Gerard Niemira, a veteran of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, is the head of Shadow. In 2019, the Democratic digital firm Acronym acquired Niemira’s company, which then was turned into Shadow. 

Acronym spokesman Kyle Tharp put out a statement early Tuesday morning distancing the group from Shadow, saying that Acronym is merely one of the investors in the for-profit company.

“We are reading confirmed reports of Shadow’s work with the Iowa Democratic Party on Twitter, and we, like everyone else, are eagerly awaiting more information from the Iowa Democratic Party with respect to what happened,” read the statement.

But in Democratic digital circles, Shadow and Acronym are widely considered to be one and the same. And in January, Acronym tweeted out an announcement saying it was “launching Shadow”:

David Plouffe, one of the chief architects of President Barack Obama’s campaigns, joined the board of Acronym in September. Coincidentally, he was on MSNBC last night commenting on the Iowa results and was asked about Shadow. He, too, tried to distance himself from the chaos.

“Acronym is an investor in Shadow. Shadow’s got its own board of directors. So in my relationship with Acronym, which has been going on for a few months, I have no knowledge of Shadow,” Plouffe said, adding he had no idea who developed the app.

Acronym’s website currently says that it “invested” in Shadow. But a version of the site last month still said it “launched” the company. 

Niemira previously served as chief technology officer and chief operating officer of Acronym, according to his LinkedIn page.

Tuesday afternoon, Shadow released its first comment on the chaos. 

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price said in a statement Tuesday morning that the results were delayed due to an issue with the app. What’s more, he said, pre-planned backup measures took longer than expected.

“While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data,” Price said. “We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed.”

The party used paper documentation from the caucuses to verify that the data collected by the app is “valid and accurate,” Price said. He added that the party hoped to release the caucus results “as soon as possible today.”

This article has been updated to reflect that Nevada announced it will not be using the Shadow app and to include a comment from Shadow.

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