Iowa disaster prompts Nevada Dems to drop caucus tech plan

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Precinct captain Carl Voss, of Des Moines, Iowa, holds his iPhone that shows the Iowa Democratic Party’s caucus reporting app Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Reacting to tech troubles in Iowa, Nevada Democrats scrapped plans to use similar technology at their caucuses in less than three weeks, as early primary voting states sought to reassure 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 State 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.”

During a conference call with reporters late Tuesday afternoon, the party’s executive director Alana Mounce had few answers but confirmed the party would not use apps developed by the vendor Shadow Inc., which was behind the technology used in Iowa.

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, as Iowa did, and a second app preloaded onto tablets for voters to use at caucus sites to cast online votes during four days of early voting.

The party has not ruled out using another app to tabulate results, Mounce said, but has no list of other technology vendors right now that they’re pursuing or talking to in order to use a different app.

Mounce did not answer a question about how the party could find a new app to use in such a short time frame, instead reiterating that the party was evaluating its options.

She did not offer details about any of the backup options or offer a timeline for when the party would have more information.

Mounce said the party is still committed to offering early voting, which is scheduled to start Feb. 15.

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 that the underlying data it collected was “sound and accurate.”

Mounce said she believed the technology created for Nevada was different than what was created for Iowa. She said the decision to ditch the technology in Nevada was made by the state party, not the Democratic National Committee.

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, local Democratic officials expressed faith in the party.

Former U.S. 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.” Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a similar statement, saying he has confidence in the 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.

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.

“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 Clark County Democratic Party.

Miller said the state party 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.

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Associated Press writers Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa; Frank Bajak in Boston; Kathleen Ronayne in Manchester, N.H.; and Meg Kinnard in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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