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The state party appears to have abandoned plans to use the app that led to disaster. But experts say more could be done

Democratic party officials in Nevada are rushing to avoid the fate of Iowa, where technological and organizational failure left the first caucus in the 2020 presidential race without a clear winner.

Nevada Democratic party officials had initially planned to rely on the same app that caused chaos in Iowa to transfer results from local precincts during the caucus on 22 February.

But during the Iowa vote, a coding issue caused the app, developed haphazardly and on a low budget by the tech firm Shadow, to report only partial data from the states 1,700 caucus sites. Spotty cellphone coverage in some voting locations, poor training of some caucus volunteers and troubles with a backup phone line to report results compounded the chaos.

Following the Iowa caucus, Nevada officials said they were determined to avoid similar problems. NV Dems can confidently say that what happened in the Iowa caucus last night will not happen in Nevada, the state Democratic party chair, William McCurdy II, said in a statement at the time.

Since then, it has been difficult to pin down the Nevada Democratic party regarding what process it will use instead. It did not respond to the Guardians requests for comment and its website includes no information on the topic.

Reports suggest the party has decided to abandon the app for a combination of Google forms and scannable paper ballots as a backup.

Nevada, like Iowa, adopted new rules from the Democratic National Committee this year requiring states to report three sets of numbers from the caucuses: the initial vote number, the number of votes a candidate receives after realignment when voters choose new candidates if their top choice fails to receive enough support and the number of state delegates ultimately awarded to candidates.

In order to report these numbers, volunteers are expected to use a caucus tool on iPads distributed by the Democratic party to precinct chairs. This is meant to help avoid some of the technical difficulties experienced in Iowa by chairs unable to download the app.

Nevada officials are reportedly consulting with Google to ensure the security and safety of the Google forms. They also reportedly consulted with the Department of Homeland Security as well as the Democratic National Committee on best practices. Google did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Experts question, however, whether the changes enacted just days before the 22 February state contest will be sufficient. The rollout of technology generally requires weeks or months of testing.

There is a lot more that could be done, but it seems like Nevada is taking a step in the right direction, said Meredith Broussard, a professor at NYU and computer scientist. . Whether we are going to see a disaster on the scale of Iowa again remains to be seen.

Broussard said that if Nevada had continued with its original plan to use the app, the state would probably have seen a disaster similar to the events in Iowa.

Campaign finance disclosure data from the state reveals the Nevada Democratic party made three payments between 21 October and 31 December 2019 of $16,714.29 each to Shadow, for a total of around $50,000.

That is not remotely enough funding to secure the app, she said. It is good they are abandoning technology that clearly doesnt work and using technology that is generally more robust.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/18/nevada-scrambles-to-avoid-iowa-like-chaos-as-democratic-caucuses-approach