‘Secret App’ Causes Major Delays in Results of Iowa Caucus

Young supporters check their phones as they attend the Caucus Night Celebration event for Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in Des Moines, Iowa, on February 3, 2020. (Photo by kerem yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)
KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images

A “secret app” that had been used in the Iowa caucuses reportedly caused major delays in Monday night’s caucus results. Meanwhile, the Democrat Party cited “quality control” as the reason for the delays.

The Democrat Party in Iowa experienced significant delays in obtaining results from Monday night’s Iowa caucus due to an app that had been kept a secret by Democrat Party officials, according to a report by the New York Times.

Multiple precinct chairs around the state of Iowa had reported having problems with the app, while campaigns voiced their frustration with the Democrat Party’s major delay in results.

Meanwhile, the Democrat Party said that the delays had been due to “quality control” checks regarding data.

The report added that while the app was “designed to improve the speed and efficiency of reporting election results,” details surrounding the app, such as its name, the security it uses, and its basic structure had been kept a “secret” by Democrat officials.

“The idea of keeping an app — particularly one that is going to be used by thousands of people at a public event — [a] secret is really a fool’s errand,” said Georgetown University professor Matt Blaze, who studies election security, according to New York Times.

According to the professor, hackers would have no problem finding out that an app had been deployed to a large group of people — such as those who needed to use the app for the Iowa caucuses.

Blaze reportedly added that the decision to keep the app a secret had only prevented people — such as cyber-security experts — from investigating the app ahead of time, discovering fallibility, and offering the Democrat Party advice on how to better secure the information.

The app had not been entirely kept a secret, however, as critics of the app had already been raising their concerns over security last week.

“Party leaders said that the mobile app would make it easier and faster to report results — but critics expressed concern about the reliability of the app amid warnings that cyber adversaries could seek to disrupt the 2020 elections,” reported the Wall Street Journal last week.

The report added that University of Iowa associate professor Douglas Jones, who has studied election security, referred to the app as a “security nightmare.”

“Democratic officials have struggled to contain other viral claims of voter fraud in the Iowa caucuses,” noted the New York Times.

Professor Blaze added that “one of the risks of introducing apps like this, and new technology more generally, into elections, is that problems occur, as they inevitably do.”

The professor also mentioned that having problems occur also fuels the public’s concerns with regards to the elections not being secure.

“People might see this as evidence that the whole system is rigged and not vote at all,” said Blaze. “And that is the most tragic outcome.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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