The Nightmare of Technology: Blame the App, Not the Iowans

The Iowa Caucus is over. There will be no more political flyers in the mail.  The Democratic candidates have flown to New Hampshire.  

There is a residue of depression.  “People are unusually quiet at the office,” a friend says.

Before the app scandal, the Democrats were exhilarated.  They thronged to the caucuses Monday night. They were psyched about their candidates.  To a man, they praised the newly-organized caucuses, which, for the first time, had paper backup:  caucus-goers filled out cards with detailed information on first and final alignment, to support the head count by precinct captains.

At home later, they sat down in front of the TV news–only to learn there were no results.  An app had malfunctioned.

Iowa caucus registration.

The chair of the Iowa Democratic party apologized for the defective app. But the results came in so much later than anyone thought.  Not available in toto  the next day, nor the next, nor the next…and on Friday, last time I checked, 99% were tallied, with Bernie and Pete declared the winners. 

The scandal rages on. And the DNC has not only rapped Iowa on the knuckles for buying a faulty app, but has threatened to kill the Iowa Caucus.

Instead of blaming the Iowans for an app that didn’t provide the  promised results, shouldn’t the focus be on the company that made it and the problems with the technology?

Ballots and tech so often go wrong, even in low-tech elections.   Remember the presidential election of 2000, when Al Gore was declared the winner, and then the Republicans insisted that George W. Bush had won?  This battle went on for months.  If I recall correctly, some votes in Florida were disqualified because of “hanging chads” on the ballot.  And Florida, where Jeb Bush was governor, determined the winner.

Elections are a hassle.  At the general elections here, I have long doubted that my vote gets counted.  Why?   I cannot color inside the lines of the bubbles on the old-fashioned multiple-choice-style ballots, because of a hand tremor, a side effect of a medication.  There are strict directions about keeping inside the lines.

The system of voting, tech, and ballots needs to be examined, whether at the caucuses, the primaries, or general elections.  And by all means, continue the caucus if the Iowans want it.  They devised the system, and the first caucus was held in 1972.  

4 thoughts on “The Nightmare of Technology: Blame the App, Not the Iowans”

  1. What saved the day was that they had paper ballots. Had it all gone awry they would have been able to count the ballots anyway and it is my understanding that the ballots were central in finally assessing who got how many votes and who to give delegates too. But why did they have to have this obscure company with its malfunctioning app? why not as in previous years count up the votes, put the papers in piles and then phone the numbers in to some central place. That’s what they did before? why this need to use internet or ditigal technology?

    1. I agree: the app was unneccesary! But if it had worked correctly, it would have gathered three sets of data that would have been useful to historians and sociologists: each caucuser’s “first alignment” (candidate he or she originally supported), “final alignment” (the candidate he or she switched to if their first candidate did not prove viable, i.e., not enough supporters, and, of course, the number of votes. The really good thing about these paper ballots is that each caucusgoer had to write in his/her own name and the name of the candidate.

      The company wasn’t that obscure: some other states had planned to use the apps, but now have had warning and have canceled it. All I know about the company is that some of Hillary’s former campaign people were involved. And I’m sure that’s why the information they wanted to gather was so sophisticated.

      All’s well that ends well! I’m pleased with the outcome. Finally!

      1. Oh I see. I had not understood. I agree that the different alignments are very important. I sat for Jessie Jackson in the one caucus type election I attended. We were maneuvred out of existence so I had to go sit somewhere else. But I didn’t want to sit in those other places and in the end all I was counted for was my last alignment. I can see why people would want that. No one has said that on the news reports. Thanks for explaining.

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