Use of voting tabulation apps raise red flags on Capitol Hill

Use of voting tabulation apps raise red flags on Capitol Hill
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A new vote counting app used Monday night by the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) that significantly delayed results from the state’s caucuses is raising red flags about their use going forward.

Republicans seized on the issue to argue that Democrats had marred their own nominating contest, though Democrats themselves said the Iowa debacle underscored concerns about how technology can harm the integrity of U.S. elections.

“In order for Democracy to work, Americans must have confidence in their election infrastructure. Yesterday, we saw a breakdown of the Iowa Democratic Party's technology that could have been easily preventable,” Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisRepublicans root for Sanders nomination in battle for House Blagojevich calls himself a 'Trumpocrat,' praises Trump after release from prison Sanders slams Trump pardons as part of 'broken and racist criminal justice system' MORE (Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, said in a statement Tuesday blasting the IDP for its use of the vote tabulation app. 

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Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database On The Money: Coronavirus complicates Fed decision on rates | Schumer wants .5B in emergency virus funding | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on military money for wall Hillicon Valley: Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments | Lawmakers grill Ticketmaster, StubHub execs over online ticketing | MORE (D-Ore.), who had questioned the Democratic National Committee (DNC) multiple times about its use of the app in advance of the Iowa caucuses, railed against it Tuesday, tweeting that “my warnings about this technology were ignored, and the result is chaos and a loss of confidence in our elections.”

Sen. Angus KingAngus KingOcasio-Cortez defends Sanders running as a Democrat: It's 'more than what you call yourself' Use of voting tabulation apps raise red flags on Capitol Hill Patrick Dempsey to star in pilot for CBS political drama 'Ways and Means' MORE (I-Maine), the co-chairman of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, told The Hill that Iowa had added “an unnecessary layer of technology to the voting process.”

Iowa officials tried to calm concerns on Tuesday, with Iowa Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick Senate Majority PAC launches first statewide TV ad for Democrat running against Ernst Overnight Health Care: Ernst endorses bipartisan bill to lower drug prices | US partnering with drugmakers on coronavirus vaccine | UN chief says virus poses 'enormous' risks MORE (R) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMcSally unveils bill to lower drug prices amid tough campaign Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE (R) putting out a joint statement with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) saying that “Iowans and all Americans should know we have complete confidence that every last vote will be counted and every last voice will be heard.” 

But election experts warned that steps must be taken by the IDP to ensure that concerns around the app do not have a negative impact on voter confidence and voter turnout in the future. 

“I think it will be important going forward to have a postmortem in which folks are able to understand what transpired and what took place both good and bad to determine what can be done better going forward, because that has implications potentially for 2020 and also for future elections as well,” David Levine, the elections integrity fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, told The Hill.

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The IDP blamed the delay on the app used to tabulate votes, which was built by Shadow Inc., a tech company affiliated with Democratic nonprofit Acronym. 

“As part of our investigation, we determined with certainty that the underlying data collected via the app was sound,” IDP Chairman Troy Price said in a statement. “While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system.”

Price said the issue was fixed and did not impact the ability of precinct chairs to report data accurately. He also emphasized that no votes were changed, and that the voting tabulation issues were not caused by a cyberattack.

Shadow has been paid by multiple presidential campaigns — including those of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Hillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket MORE and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket The Hill's Campaign Report: Gloves off in South Carolina MORE (D) — and state Democratic parties.

The Nevada Democratic Party, which had been planning to use the same app during the upcoming Nevada caucuses, took steps on Tuesday to distance itself from the app, and released a statement saying they would no longer use the app. 

Complicating matters further in Iowa were reports that caucus volunteers were not trained properly in how to use the app, which was reportedly rolled out only weeks in advance of the caucuses. 

Liz Howard, the former deputy commissioner for the Virginia Department of Elections, told The Hill that rolling out a new app, and not fully training volunteers, was like “rolling out new registers on Black Friday,” and “generally not a good idea.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfLawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Public health experts raise alarm as coronavirus spreads Romney: Trump administration unprepared for coronavirus outbreak MORE said during an appearance on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday that the agency’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) had offered to vet the Shadow app, but were turned down.

But IDP Chairman Price pushed back on Wolf’s comments, saying during a news conference Tuesday afternoon that the IDP had “no knowledge” of an offer from the Department of Homeland Security to vet the app. 

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand Bennet Biden proposes 0B housing plan Nevada caucuses open with a few hiccups Overnight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan MORE (D-Colo.) told The Hill that he found the botched use of the app “deeply troubling and deeply concerning.” And Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCongress eyes killing controversial surveillance program This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms MORE (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned Tuesday that what happened with the app’s use in Iowa could have ripple effects throughout the rest of the 2020 election process.

“As we get further into the 2020 primaries, what happened in Iowa is an early warning sign that Congress, local officials, and the social media platform companies have much more work to do to ensure the integrity of our elections,” Warner said.