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Iowa Democrats blame ‘coding issue’ for botched caucus results

Iowa Democrats blame ‘coding issue’ for botched caucus results


The data was recorded correctly, but it was improperly transmitted

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Photo by Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Iowa Democratic Party said a “coding issue” was responsible for the botched reporting that delayed the results of the inaugural presidential primary contest on Monday night.

The app used to report results of the caucus was only sending “partial data,” according to a statement released on Tuesday morning by Troy Price, chair of the IDP. Price says the party has been able to verify that the app accurately collected the results entered into it, but it then failed to properly transmit that data to the party.

The app issue has been “identified and fixed,” the party says

“While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data,” Price said. “We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system.”

The issue has been “identified and fixed,” according to Price. The party plans to release results later today.

Iowa caucus results have traditionally been phoned in, but this year, the Iowa Democratic Party encouraged precincts to input results into a new app. The Huffington Post reports that the party paid $60,000 to have the app developed, which is a fair tiny amount for such a critical piece of election infrastructure. (The party used an app in 2016 as well, developed in part by Microsoft; it also had caucus-night issues.)

Coding issues weren’t the only problem, though. Many caucus volunteers weren’t accustomed to using the new app and had planned to avoid using it, calling in their results as usual, according to The New York Times. Others tried to use the app but couldn’t log in or were unable to submit their results.

The party’s complete statement is below.

This morning, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price released the following statement:

Last night, more than 1,600 precinct caucuses gathered across the state of Iowa and at satellite caucuses around the world to demonstrate our shared values and goal of taking back the White House. The many volunteers running caucus sites, new voters registering as Democrats, and neighbors talking to each other about the future of our country demonstrated the strength of our party.

We have every indication that our systems were secure and there was not a cyber security intrusion. In preparation for the caucuses, our systems were tested by independent cybersecurity consultants.  

As precinct caucus results started coming in, the IDP ran them through an accuracy and quality check. It became clear that there were inconsistencies with the reports. The underlying cause of these inconsistencies was not immediately clear, and required investigation, which took time. 

As this investigation unfolded, IDP staff activated pre-planned backup measures and entered data manually. This took longer than expected. 

As part of our investigation, we determined with certainty that the underlying data collected via the app was sound. 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. This issue was identified and fixed. The application’s reporting issue did not impact the ability of precinct chairs to report data accurately. 

Because of the required paper documentation, we have been able to verify that the data recorded in the app and used to calculate State Delegate Equivalents is valid and accurate. Precinct level results are still being reported to the IDP. While our plan is to release results as soon as possible today, our ultimate goal is to ensure that the integrity and accuracy of the process continues to be upheld.

Correction February 4th, 9:57AM ET: Iowa used an app to help record results in 2016 as well. This story initially said 2020 was the first time Iowa used an app. We regret the error.