Local software developer weighs in on Iowa caucus app failure

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV)– Democratic party leaders chose to use the help of an app to report unofficial results in Iowa,​ but it didn’t work out as planned. ​

The app at the Iowa caucuses was suppose to speed up reporting election results, but it did ​
the opposite.

A coding issue with an app at the Iowa caucuses unleashed major problems. Organizers had trouble downloading it Monday to report results and had to use the paper method for backup.​

Ben Hubbard, the director of outreach for Mississippi Coding Academies, who also cofounded a software development business in Jackson, says his first thought is that the company rushed to build the app. ​
​​
“You don’t want to be in a situation where you are piloting it for real at the live event and then you have a bug​,” said Hubbard.​

The Iowa Democratic Party released partial results of caucuses Tuesday afternoon with 62 percent of precincts reporting. Chairman Troy Price called the problems unacceptable. ​
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“I’ve read that the Department of Homeland Security offered to test it for them and they declined, having them validate would help ​from a security standpoint, but also stress test it,” said Hubbard. “Put it through some rigorous use to make sure there aren’t any kinks or bugs in the ​
process.” ​

On Twitter, Shadow Inc., the company hired to create the app apologized, saying it regrets the delay in the reporting of the results.
​​
“If it’s done right, tested properly, implemented correctly, yes it can be secure, but you know you always have some kind of risk,” said Hubbard. “You always​ have risks with paper ballots, paper processes, anyways, so we shouldn’t make the risk of that, make us not move forward with newer technology that’s going to make it faster and the more we do this, the more secure it will be.”

I reached out to Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson for comment on the March 10th primary. He released this statement:

“Obviously Iowa uses a different process than we do here in Mississippi. To the extent he can, I’m sure Secretary Pate will get to the bottom of the issues there. As for Mississippi, I’m confident in our equipment, our training, circuit clerks, election commissioners, poll workers, party executive committees and others who play a role in our elections we’ll continue our preparations, but Mississippians can rest assured that we’ll be ready​ for March 10th.”

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