What could possibly go wrong?
Microsoft is jumping into the presidential campaign business in a big way this year, starting with today’s long awaited Iowa caucuses. The tech giant has generously volunteered to proved (at no cost) a new app to both major parties which will be used to tally the votes from the more than 1,600 caucus sites across the state. If you’re suddenly feeling a sense of creeping dread, you’re not the only one. (The Hill)
Microsoft volunteered to provide the technology to help tally up the results of Iowa’s caucus, free of charge. Now it will be put to the test Monday night.
The contests in both parties are expected to go down to the wire. And the spotlight will be on precinct officials who have been trained on a new Microsoft app, which is meant to cut down on human error and speed up the reporting process…
Only four years ago, the Iowa Republican Party suffered an embarrassment with its caucus reporting when Mitt Romney appeared to be the winner for weeks, only for the final tally to show a narrow victory for Rick Santorum.
Microsoft is seeking to avoid such confusion by providing an app, backed up by its cloud technology, that will be used to help report the caucus results.
“Microsoft and their App partner, InterKnowlogy, are global leaders in the technology industry, and we completely trust the integrity of their staff and the app,” Iowa Democratic Party communications director Sam Lau said in a statement.
Yes indeed, it’s an app. To be used on a smart phone. And if you’re used to seeing the same collection of blue haired ladies running the Iowa caucus sites that we have handling the primary voting out here in New York, I’m sure the first thing that comes to your mind is a mastery of smart phone app technology.
There were some rather infamous problems with caucus result reporting during the last two cycles (Santorum Wins!) when they used a phone based system where the results were entered on a standard phone keypad. This new system was designed to reduce those errors, so I see no cloud on the horizon. (Pun intended)
Putting aside my own misgivings on the technical front for a moment, others have been more than a little suspicious for different reasons. Most prominent among this group is Bernie Sanders.
Pete D’Alessandro, who runs the Sanders operation in Iowa, last week questioned the tech giant’s motivations. However, the campaign declined to expand on its concerns after multiple requests for clarification.
Other aides to Sanders noted that Microsoft employees have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Clinton campaign, according to MSNBC.
“You’d have to ask yourself why they’d want to give something like that away for free,” D’Alessandro said.
Despite assurances that everyone is confident in the new system, The Hill reports that both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns have installed their own backup reporting systems. There is no mention made of how the Republican campaigns feel about it. Still, I get the feeling that if either race is really coming down to the wire around 10 pm tonight we’re going to see challenges to the app results and calls for the backup systems to be dredged up and compared.
Personally, I’m not too worried about the robust abilities of the new app in performing this critical task. I use a Microsoft system myself on my workstation for Hot Air and it’s always been solid. In fact, it’s made writing this column much easier, so as soon as I hit save one more time and do a quick QC check of my work, I’ll hit publish and get this post up for all of you to read and commen