Feb. 3, 2020, is a date that will live in electoral infamy. The Iowa caucus, an event that is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for many candidates and commentators, experienced significant delays in the reporting of results. The consequences of such have prompted many pundits to question the credibility and purpose of Iowa’s caucusing system and their pole position on the primary calendar.
The Iowa caucuses themselves, however, are not to blame. Instead, the fault should be placed on the Iowa Democratic Party, or IDP, and its complete lack of preparedness for Monday.
The problem? A new app used by the IDP to report results.
“As part of our investigation, we determined with certainty that the underlying data collected via the app was sound,” IDP Chairman Troy Price said in a news release. “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.”
Iowa Democratic officials should have seen this coming. According to an NPR report, the IDP declined to answer if the app had been investigated for any vulnerabilities. The party also refused to explain what measures had been instituted to certify the application’s security and effectiveness.
Such a lack of transparency left cybersecurity experts understandably concerned. Doug Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa and a former caucus precinct leader, stated in the same NPR report that “drawing the blinds on the process leaves us, in the public, in a position where we can’t even assess the competence of the people doing something on our behalf.”
The backup plan for system failure is to use a hotline to report results. The ineffectiveness of that system was also exposed on caucus night when a caucus chairman was hung up on by the state party after holding for nearly 90 minutes. All of this unfolded live on CNN, deepening the hole that Iowa Democratic officials had dug themselves.
The IDP was not ready for Monday evening’s caucuses. Despite the incident, the caucuses themselves should be viewed in a separate lens.
A separate NPR article summarizes precisely why Iowa makes an excellent choice for the first vote of the presidential primary: “Iowa is small enough for every candidate to make his or her way all across the state and advertise on the cheap. Small candidates can compete with the big dogs in Iowa from Day 1.”
For instance, a once little-known senator by the name of Barack Obama surged to prominence with a victory in the 2008 caucuses. Other underdog candidates who used Iowa as a catapult to nominations include Jimmy Carter and John Kerry.
If a large state like California or New York was selected for the first vote of election season, then the vote would be decided by who has the biggest bank account.
Iowa, even if it doesn’t look like it, is the epitome of a proper democratic process: small, intimate and filled with passionate candidates and voters alike.
Matthew Geiger is a freshman studying economics at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Matthew? Tweet him @Mattg444.