Iowa disaster prompts Nevada Dems to drop caucus tech plan
Las Vegas – Reacting to tech troubles in Iowa, Nevada Democrats scrapped plans to use similar technology at their caucuses in less than three weeks, as early voting states sought to re-assure the public that they could pull off smooth elections.
Officials in South Carolina and New Hampshire expressed confidence in their primary election systems, while Democrats in Nevada, the third state to vote, said they were taking steps to prevent the chaos seen in Iowa.
Nevada Democratic Party chair William McCurdy II issued a statement Tuesday saying the party “can confidently say that what happened in the Iowa caucus last night will not happen in Nevada.”
“We will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus,” McCurdy said. “We had already developed a series of backups and redundant reporting systems, and are currently evaluating the best path forward.”
Molly Forgey, a spokeswoman for the party, said the party will not use the original app developed by the original vendor, Shadow. The party is evaluating its options and does not rule out using another app to tabulate results. Forgey did not immediately have details on the other options.
Democrats in Nevada had planned to use more technology than Iowa in their Feb. 22 caucuses. They had announced plans to use two apps: one to tabulate results and a second preloaded onto tablets for voters to use at caucus sites to cast online votes during four days of early voting.
The Nevada Democratic Party paid Shadow Inc. $58,000 for technology services in August, according to the party’s spending reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. The party’s state-based fundraising reports shows additional payments totaling about $50,000 in October and December.
Shadow Inc. issued a statement Tuesday saying it regrets the delay in reporting in Iowa but the underlying data it collected was “sound and accurate.”
Former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who is credited with building Nevada’s Democratic Party and securing its place as the third state weighing in on the presidential race, issued a public statement saying he is “100% confident that what happened in Iowa will not happen in Nevada.”
The Iowa Democratic Party blamed a “coding issue in the reporting system” for its delay in reporting results. Caucus organizers reported problems with the new mobile app that led many precinct leaders to phone in results to the state party headquarters. Some questioned whether the app-users – volunteer organizers – had been properly trained on the new technology.
Other early voting states also tried to to reassure the public about their plans for the presidential primary.
New Hampshire and South Carolina, which both hold primaries instead of caucuses, said they had faith in their well-tested systems.
New Hampshire’s top elections official, Bill Gardner, says the state, which votes second after Iowa, has “kept it simple” and he doesn’t expect any problems in the Feb. 11 primary.
The South Carolina Democratic Party chairman, Trav Robertson Jr., said in a statement that his party has “confidence in our voting system and the professionals who run the South Carolina Election Commission.”
In Nevada, it was unclear how the party would make late-stage changes to its plans.
“From what I’ve seen, the party’s done everything it can to make for a smooth process. Unfortunately, there will be some who will look at Iowa and think that process is already damaged,” said Chris Miller, the former chair of the Las Vegas-based Clark County Democratic Party.
Donna West, the current Clark County chair, said she was not worried.
“I see this as an opportunity to learn. We’ve got time,” West said, deferring further questions about the process to the state party.
The Nevada campaigns of many of the top Democratic presidential candidates declined to comment Tuesday.
An official with one Democratic presidential campaign in Nevada who was not authorized to speak publicly said because of the similarity to the Iowa Democratic Party’s plans, there was mounting concern about Nevada’s ability to pull off a smooth process and Nevada Democrats needed to offer more information to reassure the campaigns.
Shelby Wiltz, the caucus director for the Nevada Democrats, told The Associated Press in a statement in January that that the party was committed to making it “the most accessible, expansive and transparent caucus yet.”
“We developed a reporting application in order to streamline the caucus process and provide our volunteers with additional support to run their caucuses as efficiently as possible,” the statement said. “We’ve gone through several rounds of testing and continue to work with a team of security experts with varying backgrounds to ensure the integrity of our process.”
Unlike in Iowa, where party officials said they were not allowing precinct chairs to download the new mobile app until just before the caucuses, Nevada precinct chairs had been practicing with the app for about a month, local Democrats said.
Miller said the state party also held a dry run of the early voting app last weekend at a meeting of its governing members. The party’s central committee members did a mock registration, were given a paper ballot and went to a tablet, where they first cast their votes online, indicating their top candidate and their next choices. They then filled out paper ballots as a backup record of their votes.
Miller said the process was easy.
Associated Press reporters Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Frank Bajak in Boston, Kathleen Ronayne in Manchester, N.H., and Meg Kinnard in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.