Buggy app causes Iowa caucuses voting chaos

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Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg addresses the crowd at a rally in Iowa. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg addresses the crowd at a rally in Iowa.
Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr CC

The first U.S. presidential primary of 2020 has been a complete disaster. And it looks like a buggy app is to blame.

Organizers of the 2020 Iowa Democratic Party caucuses used a new app created by developer Shadow Inc. The app was supposed to enable Iowa caucus-goers to securely report the voting results in their precincts. But when it came time for the app to shine, a coding error threw the election into chaos by reporting incorrect data.

All public reporting of Monday’s Iowa caucus results was put on hold until Tuesday due to problems with the app. Motherboard reports that not only was the app sending incorrect data, it also just didn’t work properly on some pollsters’ phones. An update for the app was sent out just two days before the election, signaling that the company was tinkering with the code right up until it was put in use.

Iowa’s Democratic Party was advised to use the app by the Democratic National Committee. The app was supposed to make reporting from the 1,700 caucus sites in Iowa faster. Instead, it had the opposite effect. Normally, caucus participants just phone in the votes. Once the app’s shortcomings became apparent, a backup plan to phone in results failed as well.

The chair of the state Democratic Party, Troy Price, apologized for the delay in reporting results today. Calling the situation unacceptable, he blamed the chaos on a problem with the backend. However, maintained that the data received was accurate. Shadow Inc. also released an apology this afternoon.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that the app was Android-only.

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