Coding error causes Iowa caucus delays.
The Iowa Democratic Party caucus spiraled into chaos on Monday after precincts encountered difficulties with an app designed to report caucus results to the party's headquarters, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Very few observers suspect any kind of cyberattack, since there's ample evidence that the app in question was poorly designed and hastily deployed without adequate testing. The incident did spawn a number of apparently homegrown conspiracy theories and disinformation that proliferated across social media, however.
The Iowa Democratic Party was slow to release partial results, but as of Friday ninety-nine percent of the vote had been released. The New York Times found that "more than 100 precincts reported results that were internally inconsistent, that were missing data or that were not possible under the complex rules of the Iowa caucuses." The Times doesn't believe these errors were intentional, but the race is close enough that any discrepancies could be significant. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez tweeted that the Iowa Democratic Party should "immediately begin a recanvass," but later said only precincts with inconsistencies should do so, The Hill reports. The Iowa Democratic Party only accepts requests for recanvassing from candidates themselves, and it's extended the deadline for such requests until Monday, the Washington Post says.
Motherboard obtained a copy of the app that initially caused the problems, which was developed by Shadow Inc. Android app developer Kasra Rahjerdi told Motherboard that the app appeared to be a "very very off the shelf skeleton project plus add your own code kind of thing," adding that it was "clearly done by someone following a tutorial." The app's development process was rushed, as the Washington Post says it was developed over the course of just two months. Shadow couldn't get the app finished in time to get it approved for Apple's store, so it was distributed to iOS users via Apple's beta testing service TestFlight. Android users had to use an equivalent service called TestFairy to install the app on their phones.
Shadow's CEO Gerard Niemira told Motherboard that the app was intentionally simple, since "it’s basically a calculator." Niemira said one of the primary issues had to do with a data formatting problem when the results were transferred to a verification system used by the Iowa Democratic Party.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) says it offered to test Shadow’s app, but the Iowa party turned down the offer. (The Washington post notes that Iowa Democratic Party chair Troy Price says he wasn't aware of CISA's offer.)
While the Iowa caucuses don't resemble the voting process in other states, NPR offers some lessons to take away from the matter. The Verge believes the incident demonstrates why elections should be kept "as analog as possible."
The Des Moines Register reports that some in the Iowa party blame a last minute security patch the DNC requested for IowaReportingApp's bugs. John McCormally, a former member of the state party’s Central Committee and this year a Polk County precinct chair, gave the Register a copy of a communication he received Saturday evening that directed an eleventh-hour security upgrade for the IowaReportingApp. Neither the state party nor the DNC would comment.