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National: Is technology consistent with electoral integrity? The hard lessons of Iowa | Sarah E. Hunt/Salon

In the modern era, much of American greatness is derived from the conception that the United States maintains the integrity of its elections, thus ensuring the fair representation of its citizens in the halls of government. Such elections brought about the suffragist and civil rights movements, which marked evolutionary tectonic shifts in American democracy that aligned the nation more closely with the ideals set forth in its Constitution. When revolutionary action is called for, our country has the ability and will to better itself and defend its values. The chaos surrounding the 2020 Iowa caucus two weeks ago was a bellwether, heralding another transformational moment. Our willingness to take action will define America’s trajectory. The events unfolding in the heartland of our country are a wake-up call to the entire nation. They highlight the importance of protecting the security and integrity of our electoral system.

Full Article: Is technology consistent with electoral integrity? The hard lessons of Iowa | Salon.com.

Iowa: What the Iowa Caucus Tells Us About Cavalier Approaches to Technology | Cillian Kieran/CPO Magazine

As details emerge about the tech issues that have delayed the results of the Iowa caucus and thrown the public into states of confusion and frustration, I marvel at the familiarity of the story to anyone who has spent long enough working on the front lines of enterprise technology. It should be noted that the dust is still settling on events in the Hawkeye State, and so it may be a few more days until we know with absolute certainty what transpired and how exactly, in 2020, the results of the caucus are taking longer to arrive than in pre-internet days. But reports so far focus on the haphazard roll-out of a new voting app designed to facilitate (ostensibly) the transmission of results from caucus locations to centralized election monitors. A number of problems appear to have occurred with this process – ranging from caucus-site volunteers being unable to log-in to report results to rumored compromising by outside parties to scramble the results-logging process. Whatever the final assessment, it’s certainly not too early to call this a disaster, with a bungled roll-out as catalyst.

Full Article: What the Iowa Caucus Tells Us About Cavalier Approaches to Technology - CPO Magazine.

Nevada: Volunteers and campaigns worry about results reporting ahead of Nevada caucuses | Holmes Lybrand, Dianne Gallagher, Pamela Kirkland and Dan Merica/CNN

With the Nevada Democratic caucuses only a week away, both caucus workers and presidential campaigns are worried about the lack of detail the state party is providing about how the results reporting process will work. The worries come after the state party stopped working with Shadow Inc., the company behind the app whose “coding errors” were at the heart of the chaos of the Iowa caucuses. Having scrapped plans to use a pair of Shadow’s apps, the parties will instead use a “caucus calculator,” as outlined in a new memo released by the Nevada State Democratic Party Thursday. Described as “user friendly,” the calculator will be used to add early voting data into each precinct and calculate totals on caucus day, February 22, along with paper work sheets. The tool, which the party does not consider an app, will be available on iPads owned by the party and “accessed through a secure Google web form.” A similar memo was sent to the presidential campaigns on Monday.

Full Article: Volunteers and campaigns worry about results reporting ahead of Nevada caucuses - CNNPolitics.

Iowa: How Acronym Pitched Itself to Potential Investors: “We Don’t Do Hyperbole. We Call BS.” | Ali Breland/Mother Jones

The letter was sent to prospective investors not long ago, the prose so redolent of disruptomatic DC consultant patter that lanyards practically hang from every word. “We don’t do hyperbole,” it reads. “We call BS. We say when our programs work. We say when they don’t because being dishonest or evasive tells us you have something to hide.” It goes on a little later: “Just don’t measure our success by how many Politico articles we’re mentioned in. You’ll be disappointed.” The letter, obtained by Mother Jones, was likely sent in 2018 on behalf of a nonprofit called Acronym, which today is infamous for having launched the tech company that launched the app that launched the Iowa Democratic caucuses into a days-long spectacle of incompetence. In the days since the caucuses went sideways in part because of its undertested app, Acronym has been evasive, if not dishonest. It has been mentioned in at least a dozen Politico articles, and indeed no one has taken the media attention as a measure of Acronym’s success.

Full Article: How Acronym Pitched Itself to Potential Investors: “We Don’t Do Hyperbole. We Call BS.” – Mother Jones.

Nevada: Democrats lay out new plan for caucuses, trying to alleviate growing concerns about the process | Holly Bailey and Isaac Stanley-Becker/The Washington Post

After scrapping a pair of apps similar to the one that caused chaos in Iowa, the Nevada State Democratic Party said it would use paper ballots and an online check-in process in its presidential caucuses, a plan unlikely to end growing concerns about the coming vote. In a memo distributed to representatives of the 2020 campaigns on Monday night, party officials outlined several new procedures for early caucusing, set to begin Saturday. Among them was the use of an online Google check-in form designed to help party officials “track participants and streamline data collection” and the assignment of a numeric “voter PIN” and separate identification number tied to state voter registration to help route a participant’s ballot to their home precinct. The plan comes a week after Nevada Democrats were forced to rip up their caucus plans in the aftermath of Iowa’s disastrous caucus result. The party had been set to use two specially designed apps developed by political technology firm Shadow, the same company that designed the vote-recording app blamed for reporting issues in Iowa. But experts warned that this new proposal would leave the caucuses vulnerable to big security threats. They said, too, that they were puzzled by how the plan would work.

Full Article: Nevada Democrats lay out new plan for caucuses, trying to alleviate growing concerns about the process - The Washington Post.

Nevada: Democrats Tight-Lipped About Vote-Counting Plans | Tarini Parti and Alexa Corse/Wall Street Journal

The Nevada Democratic Party is still working on its process for conducting and transmitting the results of its Feb. 22 caucuses and has been unable to answer questions about how that will be carried out, causing alarm among volunteers and campaigns. With early voting starting in less than a week, volunteers who have attended training sessions said they were confused about the process and technology they were expected to use for the state’s caucuses. And questions from campaigns to the state party have either been ignored or only heightened concerns when answered, according to campaign aides. The state party has said that it is evaluating its process and will have backups including paper records in place to ensure that the caucuses run smoothly. In the aftermath of the debacle in Iowa’s caucuses, where glitchy technology and poor planning cast confusion over the outcome, the Nevada State Democratic Party said it would no longer use an app built by Shadow Inc., the vendor in charge of a similar app that failed in Iowa. Nevada’s app was set to play an even bigger role than the one in Iowa did, according to people familiar with the issue. The Nevada Democratic Party, which is implementing early voting for its caucuses for the first time, was planning on using the app to fold in early voting results with caucus night alignments, calculate the threshold required for viability for candidates and the realignment results and then transmit them. Ditching the app has forced the party to make changes to multiple parts of the process, the people said. Some of those changes still aren’t clear, they said.

Full Article: Nevada Democrats Tight-Lipped About Vote-Counting Plans - WSJ.

Iowa: How the Iowa Caucuses Became an Epic Fiasco for Democrats | Reid J. Epstein, Sydney Ember, Trip Gabriel and Mike Baker/The New York Times

The first signs of trouble came early. As the smartphone app for reporting the results of the Iowa Democratic caucuses began failing last Monday night, party officials instructed precinct leaders to move to Plan B: calling the results into caucus headquarters, where dozens of volunteers would enter the figures into a secure system. But when many of those volunteers tried to log on to their computers, they made an unsettling discovery. They needed smartphones to retrieve a code, but they had been told not to bring their phones into the “boiler room” in Des Moines. As a torrent of results were phoned in from school gymnasiums, union halls and the myriad other gathering places that made the Iowa caucuses a world-famous model of democracy, it soon became clear that the whole process was melting down. Volunteers resorted to passing around a spare iPad to log into the system. Melissa Watson, the state party’s chief financial officer, who was in charge of the boiler room, did not know how to operate a Google spreadsheet application used to input data, Democratic officials later acknowledged.

Full Article: How the Iowa Caucuses Became an Epic Fiasco for Democrats - The New York Times.

Nevada: Election Security Institute Criticizes Newly-Unveiled Nevada Caucus App After Iowa Disaster | Hunter Moyler/Newsweek

An institute that studies election security criticized the Nevada Democratic Party for planning to use a digital tool for its caucuses, arguing that Nevada was likely to run into many of the same issues that Iowa did with its voting app last week. The Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Institute began its Twitter thread Sunday with a link to a story from The Nevada Independent, which detailed how the Nevada Democratic Party (NDP) will be using a digital “tool” on the day of that state’s caucuses on February 22. The Independent reported that NDP staffers made a distinction between its tool and the app that was used by the Iowa Democratic Party for their caucuses on February 3. A faulty app that was not tested properly and had coding issues led to delays of the Iowa results. “Deja Vu; this time in NV,” OSET’s first tweet read. “Let’s be clear from the start: their’s is an ‘App’ and no designation of ‘tool’ changes that. Let’s stop playing word games here. The fact that its pre-loaded & may not use mobile connectivity is the only ‘difference.'” The institute dismissed the NDP’s distinction between an “app” and a “tool,” arguing that any difference between the two was superficial.

Full Article: Election Security Institute Criticizes Newly-Unveiled Nevada Caucus App After Iowa Disaster.

National: Iowa Breakdown Reveals Broken Election Technology Ecosystem | Alyza Sebenius and Bill Allison/Bloomberg

The chaos at the Iowa caucus has been blamed on a small startup called Shadow Inc., but what happened this week is also emblematic of wider problems plaguing the world of election technology. It’s hard to get sophisticated technology companies to build such technology because most buyers have small budgets, and disappear after Election Day. In a four-year presidential election cycle, one campaign’s killer app is woefully obsolete by the next. So political parties and campaigns often create the technology themselves or hire small firms to do it for them. “The tech companies with depth of knowledge and understanding tend to shy away from building critical voting systems,” said Charles Stewart III, a professor and elections scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Full Article: Iowa Democrats Latest News: Election Technology Is Broken - Bloomberg.

Iowa: The Iowa Caucuses App Had Another Problem: It Could Have Been Hacked | Jack Gillum and Jessica Huseman/ProPublica

A glitch in the smartphone app used to count and report votes from individual precincts continues to delay results from Monday’s Iowa caucuses. But a closer look shows that the app had a potentially graver problem that apparently did not come into play: its vulnerability to hacking. The IowaReporterApp was so insecure that vote totals, passwords and other sensitive information could have been intercepted or even changed, according to officials at Massachusetts-based Veracode, a security firm that reviewed the software at ProPublica’s request. Because of a lack of safeguards, transmissions to and from the phone were left largely unprotected. Chris Wysopal, Veracode’s chief technology officer, said the problems were elementary. He called it a “poor decision” to release the software without first fixing them. “It is important for all mobile apps that deal with sensitive data to have adequate security testing, and have any vulnerabilities fixed before being released for use,” he said. The weaknesses reinforce concerns about political parties managing elections, especially in an era of heightened sensitivity to digital security issues — and about the Iowa Democratic Party’s actions in particular. Party officials, who touted the new technology as a fast way to tally votes, may have given short shrift to assuring not only the app’s effectiveness but also its security, experts said.

Full Article: The Iowa Caucuses App Had Another Problem: It Could Have Been Hacked — ProPublica.

Iowa: Democrats to undergo independent review of caucus chaos | Thomas Beaumont and Seth Borenstein/Associated Press

Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price, under immense pressure following the state’s presidential caucus debacle, said Friday that an independent review will determine what caused the problems that led to a dayslong delay in reporting the results, inconsistencies in the numbers and no clear winner. “We will be undergoing an independent, forensic review,” Price told reporters Friday in Des Moines. “What went right? What went wrong? Start to finish.” But almost nothing went right Monday night, first when an app local Democratic volunteers were to use to report the results from almost 1,700 precincts failed, and then when a massive backlog of phone reports and inquiries followed. It brought the reporting of the results of the leadoff presidential nominating contest to a standstill. It took until Thursday for the state party, which operates the series of statewide political meetings, to issue what it said are complete results.

Full Article: Iowa Democrats to undergo independent review of caucus chaos.

Iowa: Docs: Shadow Inc. Directly Tied to Left-Wing Media Operation | Anna Merlan and Tim Marchman/VICE

A company called Shadow earned instant infamy this week when an app it created to tabulate the results of the Iowa caucuses led to a statewide meltdown that has thrown the Democratic presidential campaign into disarray. In the wake of that disaster, a lot of people have a lot of questions about Acronym, a well-connected startup that’s tied to but has distanced itself from Shadow. This week, Acronym founder Tara McGowan put out a statement describing Shadow as an independent company and Acronym as a mere investor; she also reportedly reached out to major Democratic donors like Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams to do damage control over Acronym’s role in the Iowa fiasco, and disclaimed any “day-to-day engagement with Shadow business.” A June 2019 draft business plan for Acronym written by McGowan and obtained by VICE, though, shows the companies as thoroughly entwined, with Shadow playing a key role in Acronym’s plans. As has been previously reported, Acronym’s goal is to create a pipeline pouring propaganda favorable to Democrats and liberal causes into swing states, ostensibly to combat the right wing’s significantly more advanced media machine, which among other things comprises Fox News, Breitbart, and other operations advancing Republican interests. The document shows the news-like sites that comprise that pipeline as connected not just to Acronym and a Democratic consulting firm called Lockwood Strategies, but to Shadow itself, with an organizational chart showing ties between Shadow and the “national editorial team” of Acronym’s news operations.

Full Article: Docs: Shadow Inc. Directly Tied to Left-Wing Media Operation - VICE.

Iowa: Caucus app is latest example of politicos building faulty technology with disastrous results | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The Iowa caucus debacle is just the latest example of politicos building faulty technology — with serious political consequences. Professional technologists shuddered at the apparent incompetence and hubris as details emerged yesterday about the Iowa Democratic party rushing a contract for its caucus results app with a little-known tech company founded by veterans of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, pushing the app out faster than it could be responsibly built and rejecting opportunities for testing and security vetting. The resulting implosion of the app from Shadow Inc. on the first vote of 2020 undermined faith in the electoral process just as Democratic party leaders were trying to restore it. The country is still waiting for the full results. “The most important lesson anyone should take away from this is that if you’re going to use a new technology that you need to very rigorously test it and exercise it and plan for what your backup will be if it fails,” Eric Rosenbach, a former top Pentagon official who leads the Defending Digital Democracy program at Harvard University, told me. “That didn’t happen here, which is disappointing,” he said. “That’s not something that’s good for democracy.” The high-profile coding error, which produced inconsistencies in reported caucus results, was reminiscent of other times when the government or campaigns built digital tools — but the hard work of getting the tech right took a backseat to other priorities.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Iowa caucus app is latest example of politicos building faulty technology with disastrous results - The Washington Post.

Iowa: Maker of glitchy Iowa caucus app has Democratic Party ties | Michael Biesecker and Brian Slodysko/Associated Press

The little-known technology start-up under scrutiny after the meltdown of the Iowa Democratic caucuses on Monday was founded little more than a year ago by veterans of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign who had presented themselves as gurus of campaigning in the digital era. Shadow Inc. was picked in secret by the Iowa Democratic Party after its leaders consulted with the Democratic National Committee on vetting vendors and security protocols for developing a phone app used to gather and tabulate the caucus results. Party officials in Iowa blamed an unspecified “coding issue” with the software that led to it producing only partial and unreliable results. It did not identify the firm that produced the technology, but campaign disclosure reports show that the Iowa party paid $63,000 to Shadow in late 2019. After the company came under withering criticism on social media Tuesday, it issued a series of tweets that expressed “regret” over technical glitches which contributed to a delay in the release of results, but stopped short of apologizing.

Full Article: Maker of glitchy Iowa caucus app has Democratic Party ties.

Iowa: Here’s the Shadow Inc. App That Failed in Iowa Last Night | Jason Koebler and Emanuel Maiberg/VICE

Jonathan Green said that everything was going well until he had to use the IowaReporterApp. “On the ground, it went great,” Green, the chair of the Democractic presidential primary caucuses in Iowa’s Fremont Township and Lone Tree precincts and an IT systems administrator for a financial services firm, said. “I got pissed off four years ago at how my precinct was run, which is why I volunteered to do it this time around,” he said. “We had 113 people and everyone was pleasant. I had to recruit a secretary once we were going—I couldn’t find one ahead of time. Everyone was patient and in good cheer. I know that’s not likely the case today. My girlfriend, especially, is distraught. She has poured her life and soul into this thing, and for naught.” Green, like many other precinct chairs, faced problems reporting the results of the caucus to Iowa’s Democratic Party using the app. Due to a coding error, the app, created by a company called Shadow Inc., wasn’t reporting the correct data, according to the Iowa Democratic Party. The error resulted in the Democrats delaying all public reporting of the results of Monday’s caucuses, and has sown chaos and confusion in a hotly contested and deeply important primary.

Full Article: Here’s the Shadow Inc. App That Failed in Iowa Last Night - VICE.

National: Caucus Meltdown Tied to Democrats’ Little-Tested Mobile App | Michaela Ross, Kartikay Mehrotra and Chris Strohm/Bloomberg

The breakdown in reporting results from Iowa’s Democratic caucuses appears tied to failures in a mobile application that wasn’t ready for the load of a statewide election and which the head of the Homeland Security Department said wasn’t subjected to a cybersecurity test by his agency. “This is more of a stress or load issue as well as a reporting issue that we’re seeing in Iowa,” acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a Fox News interview Tuesday. Wolf said there’s little evidence of hacking of the app, which precinct officials struggled to use on Monday night. He said that his department’s cyber division had offered to test the software for vulnerabilities but was declined.… But the failure spotlights the need for hard-copy backups across election systems, as a handful of states are still using voting machines that don’t produce a paper receipt, according to Marian Schneider, president of the voting advocacy group Verified Voting and former deputy secretary for elections of Pennsylvania. “It’s clear that mobile apps are not ready for prime time, but thankfully Iowa has paper records of their vote totals and will be able to release the results from those records,” Schneider said.

Full Article: Iowa Caucus Meltdown Tied to Democrats’ Little-Tested Mobile App.

National: Iowa Caucus chaos likely to set back mobile voting | Lucas Mearian/Computerworld

A coding flaw and lack of sufficient testing of an application to record votes in Monday’s Iowa Democratic Presidential Caucus will likely hurt the advancement and uptake of online voting. While there have been hundreds of tests of mobile and online voting platforms in recent years – mostly in small municipal or corporate shareholder and university student elections – online voting technology has yet to be tested for widespread use by the general public in a national election. “This is one of the cases where we narrowly dodged a bullet,” said Jeremy Epstein, vice chair of the Association for Computing Machinery’s US Technology Policy Committee (USTPC). “The Iowa Democratic Party had planned to allow voters to vote in the caucus using their phones; if this sort of meltdown had happened with actual votes, it would have been an actual disaster. In this case, it’s just delayed results and egg on the face of the people who built and purchased the technology.” The vote tallying app used Monday in the Iowa Caucus was created by a small Washington-based vendor called Shadow Inc.; the app was funded in part by a nonprofit progressive digital strategy firm named Acronym. Today, Acronyn strived to make it clear through a tweet it did not supply the technology for the Iowa Caucus, and it is no more than an investor.

Full Article: Iowa Caucus chaos likely to set back mobile voting | Computerworld.

Iowa: DHS chief says offer to vet Iowa caucus app was declined | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Tuesday that an offer to vet the app used by the Iowa Democratic Party to tabulate votes during the Iowa caucuses was turned down. “Our Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has offered to test that app from a hacking perspective,” Wolf said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.” Wolf said the offer was “declined” and noted that “we’re seeing a couple of issues with it.” “I would say right now, we don’t see any malicious cyber activity going on,” he added. The Iowa Democratic Party said Tuesday morning that the app used to tabulate votes as part of the first-in-the-nation caucuses, which CNN confirmed was built by the firm Shadow, had a “coding issue in the reporting system” that slowed down the reporting of vote totals.

Full Article: DHS chief says offer to vet Iowa caucus app was declined | TheHill.

Nevada: Democrats won’t use app that caused Iowa caucus fiasco | Adam Edelman/NBC

Nevada’s Democratic Party said Tuesday it will not use the trouble-plagued app that has contributed to ongoing delays in the reporting of results in the Iowa Democratic caucuses. Democrats in Nevada had planned to use the app for their caucus on Feb. 22. The same company developed the app for both states. But the state’s Democratic Party said Tuesday that it had previously created backup plans for its reporting systems and was in the process of “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. We will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus,” Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II said in a statement.

Full Article: Nevada Democrats won't use app that caused Iowa caucus fiasco.

Nevada: Democrats won’t use app at center of Iowa delays | Chris Mills Rodrigo/The Hill

The Nevada Democratic Party on Tuesday announced that it will not use the election results app that has been blamed for the delay in results from the Iowa caucuses. “NV Dems can confidently say that what happened in the Iowa caucus last night will not happen in Nevada on February 22nd. We will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus,” Nevada State Democratic Party Chairman William McCurdy said in a statement. “We had already developed a series of backups and redundant reporting systems, and are currently evaluating the best path forward.” The announcement comes after the results of the Iowa caucuses, which began on Monday at 8 p.m. EST, have yet to be released amid confusion over the app used to transmit results, triggering uproar from supporters and political pundits. The slow rollout has lead many to question Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status. Price told campaigns early Tuesday afternoon that presidential campaigns should expect that a “majority” of the caucus results will be released at 5 p.m. EST, a source on the call told The Hill.

Full Article: Nevada Democrats won't use app at center of Iowa delays | TheHill.