Tuesday, February 04, 2020


I'm being told that the app failure that prevented the reporting of results from last night's Iowa Democratic caucuses is the fault of the state party. I think the fish stinks at least partly from the head:
The app that the Iowa Democratic Party commissioned to tabulate and report results from the caucuses on Monday was not properly tested at a statewide scale, said people who were briefed on the app by the state party.

It was quickly put together in just the past two months, said the people, some of whom asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

And the party decided to use the app only after another proposal for reporting votes — which entailed having caucus participants call in their votes over the phone — was abandoned, on the advice of Democratic National Committee officials, according to David Jefferson, a board member of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan election integrity organization.
We had a year's buildup to this. It was going to be the first real showcase for the Democrats in 2020. It was important not to fuck this up.

But I guess the DNC -- apart from weighing in on the app choice, of course -- ceded most responsibility to the state Democratic Party, whose chair is this guy:

And on the use of the app, he ceded responsibility to county-level officials.
The state party did not provide any training on how to use the app, [Polk County Democratic Party chair Sean Bagniewski] said, adding that while the caucus trainings are done at the county level, the app itself came from the state level.

Local officials had trouble downloading the app, getting a PIN to log in, and activating it even when they had a PIN, Bagniewski said.

Then, when precinct chairmen tried to call the results in via the hotline, they were placed on hold for as long as two hours, he said.

“When our chairs are calling, it’s a wait time of an hour and a half or two hours. In some cases they have dropped the call,” he said.
In my fantasy, heads roll immediately. The Iowa Democratic Party chair resigns today. So does the head of the DNC, Tom Perez. Someone genuinely smart and reassuring gets Perez's job -- I'm thinking Stacey Abrams.

She immediately announces that the Democratic Party is strongly leaning toward an all-primary system in the future, and is also strongly considering a schedule that no longer places Iowa first. Then she gets to work making sure that the remaining caucus states -- which include another crucial early state, Nevada -- don't have similar problems. If she has any doubts whatsoever, she orders future caucus states to report the way they did in 1988. If that was via landline and nobody has landlines anymore, then she announces right away that the votes will be tallied by hand and be ready when they're ready, because Democrats are going to do this right.

Democrats should demonstrate that they know this was a failure and that they're taking the job seriously. And while I realize that resignations will lead to a lot of "Democrats in Disarray" headlines, putting people in charge who care about competence (and who radiate a sense of caring about competence) would do a lot to dispel the impression that Democrats are woolly-headed bumblers who shouldn't be allowed to run a lemonade stand (which is precisely what the president of the United States is saying this morning, and for once I can't blame him, because Democrats have this coming).

I mention Abrams, but there are probably subordinates somewhere in the system who are super-competent and long-suffering and would never be considered for the top position because they spend their time mastering the job rather than grabbing for the brass ring. Who was warning the loudest that this debacle was coming? Hire that person. I bet it's someone you'd never consider for a prestige gig, and I bet she'd do a much better job.

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