Officials worry about Nevada caucus technology after Iowa

Experts and officials are raising concerns over the Nevada State Democratic Party plans to use a Google calculator uploaded to new iPads to tally results during their caucuses next week after the debacle in Iowa.

The party will use a custom Google calculator accessed through a “secure Google web form,” which will be uploaded to 2,000 newly purchased iPads to help tabulate votes. Precinct leaders will also track votes via paper backup sheets.

Alana Mounce, the Party’s executive director, wrote in a memo that the Party had consulted with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and outside security experts, and vowed that “we are confident in our backup plans and redundancies.”

But in the wake of the chaotic Iowa caucuses–where an app the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) used for counting malfunctioned and delayed results–officials have anxiety about Nevada’s plans.

What they’re saying: Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that pushed through millions in election security funds for states last year, warned Thursday that “there can’t be anymore experiments” when it comes to caucus voting.

“The caucuses need to learn that the integrity of the election process is on everybody’s mind now, and if you are going to use processes like this, you better have them vetted over and over again,” Quigley added. “I get the desire to be high-tech, but if you are going to do this process, you better get it right.”

Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), the top Republican on the House Homeland Security cybersecurity subcommittee, told The Hill that he thought the use of an iPad was “a terrible idea that exposes them to possible hacking.”

The concerns: Early voting began on Saturday and runs through today, with the official Caucus Day to follow on Feb. 22. That means the Nevada Democratic Party has had a short amount of time to turn around a new vote counting system.

Former Iowa caucus worker Douglas W. Jones, who works as an associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa, said the issue of training volunteers, many of whom are often older, was one of his biggest concerns headed into the Nevada caucuses.

“The challenge is I think that the average age of poll workers in the United States is in the 70s,” Jones said. “There are generations of people still politically engaged who are not necessarily technologically proficient.”

Mounce noted in the memo that 3,000 volunteers would undergo a “robust training program” to prepare for the caucuses, though according to CNN, many precinct volunteers had not yet seen the iPads they would use a day before early voting began.

David Levine, a former election official in both Idaho and Washington, D.C., told The Hill on Friday he was concerned that party officials may not be as well-versed in training volunteers on how to use new technologies.

“It’s a tough process to do in such a short period of time with volunteers,” Levine, who currently serves as an Elections Integrity Fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, added. “It’s important to have not only trained folks on how to do this process, but also on how to use the backup process.”