Only a quarter of Iowa precinct chairs were able to install the Shadow app

The NY Times has a follow up report on the disaster created by the app intended to streamline reporting of the Iowa caucus results. Earlier today the Democratic Party had released a statement saying the app had accurately recorded data but had a glitch when it came to reporting that data. But according to the NY Times, the majority of the 1700 precinct chairs couldn’t even get the app to install on their phones, in part because it had never been approved for use by the Apple store:

Two people who work for Acronym, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to risk their jobs, acknowledged that the app had problems. It was so rushed, they said, that there was no time to get it approved by the Apple store. Had it been, it might have proved far easier for users to install.

Instead, the app had to be downloaded by bypassing a phone’s security settings, a complicated process for anyone unfamiliar with the intricacies of mobile operating systems, and especially hard for many of the older, less tech-savvy caucus chairs in Iowa.

The app also had to be installed using two-factor authentication and PIN passcodes. The information was included on worksheets given to volunteers at the Iowa precincts tallying the votes, but it added another layer of complication that appeared to hinder people.

In the end, only one-quarter of the 1,700 precinct chairs successfully downloaded and installed the app, according to a Democratic consultant who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid losing work. Many who resorted to calling in the results found that there were too few operators to handle the calls.

The Times reported that many of the precinct chairs simply didn’t try:

According to more than a dozen Iowa Democratic Party officials, county chairmen and volunteers involved in running precincts, many precinct leaders ignored the party’s request that they download the app before caucus night or found the process of installing it too cumbersome.

Instead, as they had always done, they planned to call their precinct results in. But some found it took hours for any of the dozens of people at party headquarters in Des Moines to pick up the phone to receive the results.

People associated with Shadow are now reportedly removing those connections from their Linked In accounts and as Ed noted earlier, ACRONYM, the progressive fundraising group behind Shadow has been disavowing its connections to the group. But it appears that the failure of this project wasn’t solely the fault of the engineers. The main problem was that Shadow was given less than two months to build and test this. That’s a ridiculously short time frame for something that has to not only work but be useable by a bunch of people not very familiar with technology.

Obviously, Shadow didn’t pull off a miracle here but the real culprits responsible for the disaster are the people within the Iowa Democratic Party who committed to this plan with so little time and then failed to have a working backup plan. I don’t suppose we’ll be seeing any of them on television this week.