I’m not sure it matters since Michael R. Bloomberg pretty clearly has this nomination wrapped up.
But yes, for what it’s worth, the chance of a second caucus fiasco less than three weeks removed from an historic Iowa debacle is real. Not likely, perhaps: Nevada Dems will have had 19 days to learn from Iowa Dems’ many, many, many — many — mistakes and adjust their process accordingly. But not quite unlikely either. Remember “Shadow,” the group responsible for the now-infamous app that set in motion Iowa’s comedy of errors?
Guess which company designed the apps that Nevada is using. Or was using, I should say.
Conducting caucuses is a particular challenge in Nevada, where there are more than 2,000 caucus sites across the state, including in some rural areas. Adding to the challenge this year is an ambitious early-voting plan designed to increase flexibility and participation. Nevada Democrats expect about 90,000 people to caucus; they expect more than half of this year’s caucus-goers to vote early.
During early voting, Democrats are allowed to vote at any site in the state between Feb. 15 and 18, no matter their registered precinct. Under the original plan, upon arrival, voters would have ranked their top three presidential choices on an iPad-based app.
The plan was for that data to be transmitted to voters’ home precincts for the Feb. 22 in-person caucuses. The local caucus leaders, using a second reporting app, were to have incorporated the early voters’ choices into the first alignment and reallocate them if their first choices were not viable. The second app, used by the caucus leader, would have then transmitted the final results to the state party.
Both apps were productions of Shadow. A company that, allegedly, chose to test its Iowa app designed to serve 1,700 precincts via a free service that allowed … 200 test users maximum.
No problem, though. Nevada has ditched the apps, replacing them with … something. Whatever they end up doing, the trick will be to efficiently incorporate early voters’ ranked choices on caucus night. E.g., if you vote early and you have Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and Biden as your top three and Klobuchar falls short of the 15 percent viability threshold at your precinct, your vote would shift to Pete on the second ballot. That can be done quickly by a computer but less quickly and reliably by hand on election night when there are hundreds of voters potentially at a precinct. So what’s replacing the now-abandoned Shadow app that was supposed to handle the task?
According to Nevada Democrats, they’ll be using a “tool” loaded onto iPads. Which, when you hear them describe it, sounds a lot like an app. And early reviews from precinct volunteers aren’t great:
In interviews, volunteers said they received little information at the training beyond a rough outline of how the tool is supposed to function…
[Volunteer Seth] Morrison said that there was “not a bit of proof” at the training that Nevada wouldn’t be another Iowa.
Another volunteer, who asked for anonymity to speak openly about the training process, said the general sentiment in the room at the training was frustration and confusion.
“We got very little information. It was just a preview. There was no hands on,” the volunteer said. “We were not given the program to work with or practice with. All we have were a few slides to look at while they told us that they’re planning to develop it further.”
Nevada Democrats haven’t revealed who designed the “tool,” ostensibly for reasons of cybersecurity, nor will they say exactly what it’s supposed to do beyond tabulating results at the precinct. Will it incorporate ranked choices from early voters? Unclear. Will it transmit results from the precincts to HQ? Unclear. What’s the back-up plan if, as in Iowa, the “tool” fails on caucus night? Volunteers told the Nevada Independent that they, ah, haven’t been given one. The party is reportedly still recruiting volunteers too, meaning that some staffers may end up missing whatever meager training the current volunteers have received. Meditate on this sentence from the Independent: “One volunteer expressed concerns that the people participating in the training didn’t even seem to understand the basic details of how to carry out the caucus process and didn’t know that precinct chairs can’t also be precinct captains on behalf of a campaign.”
Morrison went on to tell the Wall Street Journal that he still doesn’t know how the iPads will be protected and that the state party has seemed “annoyed” by all the questions. So, yeah, this may very well end up being another galactic sh*tshow. And if it is, that’ll be the end of caucuses in America forever. At least until Democrats learn how to count.
I’ll leave you with this moment from today’s press conference by the head of the Iowa Democratic Party, which perfectly sums up the past week.
This happened pic.twitter.com/4goqGfnhI4
— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) February 10, 2020