Election Security Institute Criticizes Newly-Unveiled Nevada Caucus App After Iowa Disaster

An institute that studies election security criticized the Nevada Democratic Party for planning to use a digital tool for its caucuses, arguing that Nevada was likely to run into many of the same issues that Iowa did with its voting app last week.

The Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Institute began its Twitter thread Sunday with a link to a story from The Nevada Independent, which detailed how the Nevada Democratic Party (NDP) will be using a digital "tool" on the day of that state's caucuses on February 22.

The Independent reported that NDP staffers made a distinction between its tool and the app that was used by the Iowa Democratic Party for their caucuses on February 3. A faulty app that was not tested properly and had coding issues led to delays of the Iowa results.

"Deja Vu; this time in NV," OSET's first tweet read. "Let's be clear from the start: their's is an 'App' and no designation of 'tool' changes that. Let's stop playing word games here. The fact that its pre-loaded & may not use mobile connectivity is the only 'difference.'"

The institute dismissed the NDP's distinction between an "app" and a "tool," arguing that any difference between the two was superficial.

"It's nonsense to get caught up in nuanced definitions over App vs. Tool in order to separate their upcoming caucus from Iowa," OSET's explained. "This is lipstick on the pig. An 'App' is the digerati abbreviation for 'software application' distributed over mobile networks (e.g., '5G' services)."

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OSET noted that there were two key differences between the app used in Iowa and the tool the NDP is set to use: First, the latter is "pre-loaded [and] configured by IT support," and the iPads that contains the tool will be distributed. Second, the tool itself does the work of calculating the caucus results. However, that was where the differences ended—which does not bode well for Nevada, according to OSET.

"Although it appears they have [two] more weeks than Iowa had, they *still* suffer from much of the same product management missteps, the first & foremost being doing *nothing* to engender *trust* (communication + transparency) in what they're doing," OSET said.

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OSET also wrote that the same issues with the app used in Iowa appeared to be present with Nevada's tool: "lack of adequate testing (all aspects); transparent code vetting; training (read the article in #1 above); security audit; and above all, resiliency planning."

The organization also called for the NDP to be more "transparent," and an answer a plethora of questions about the tool: Who developed the tool? Who has tested it? How it will be used to report the results of the caucus?

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"In short, if the DNC & NDP want to improve *trust* in all of this, then do the right things," OSET suggested. "A) communicate and be totally transparent. B) name names. C) identify organizations involved, D) clearly describe the system- how it works & why you believe it will be different than the @ShadowincHQ Iowa disaster, and E) disclose who the vendor is and whether its still @ShadowincHQ or their work handed over to another vendor."

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The institute predicted that "the DNC & NDP will *not* engender any trust by failing to completely answer these questions" and that there will be problems with the app on Caucus Day.

"Please prove us wrong," read the final tweet in the thread. "Otherwise, there will be very serious questions about *why* this money was spent to build unnecessary Apps in the first place. Stay tuned."

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According to its official website, the Palo Alto, California-based OSET Institute focuses on "researching, developing, and making innovative election software public technology ... in order to increase verification, accuracy, security, and transparency ... and ensure that ballots are counted as cast."

Newsweek contacted the Nevada Democratic Party for comment on OSET's comments but did not receive a reply before publication.

Delay Iowa Caucus Results
Carl Voss, Des Moines City Councilman and a precinct chair, shows photographers the app that was used for caucus results reporting on his phone after he unsuccessfully attempted to drop off a caucus results packet from Precinct 55 at the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters February 4, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Alex Wong/Getty
Election Security Institute Criticizes Newly-Unveiled Nevada Caucus App After Iowa Disaster | Politics