Nevada Democratic Party Abandons Problematic App Used In Iowa Caucuses

Feb 4, 2020, 1:26 PM

The mobile app that has apparently caused issues during the Iowa caucuses is due to be used in the ...

The mobile app that has apparently caused issues during the Iowa caucuses is due to be used in the Nevada Democratic caucuses later this month, a person familiar with the app told CNN. (CNN)


(CNN) — The Nevada Democratic Party said Tuesday that it will not use Shadow Inc., the maker of the app that caused reporting issues in the Iowa caucuses, to power its state caucuses later this month, despite already paying tens of thousands of dollars to the Democrat-affiliated technology company.

In a statement, state Democratic Party Chairman William McCurdy II promised that Nevada’s caucuses on February 22 will not be a repeat of Iowa’s.

“We will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus,” he said. “We had already developed a series of backups and redundant reporting systems, and are currently evaluating the best path forward.”

A person familiar with the Iowa app had previously told CNN that Nevada was also expected to use Shadow’s software in a matter of weeks.

Expenditure data reported by the Nevada Democrats showed that they had paid $58,000 to Shadow last year.

The app was built to collect and report the caucus results, but some precinct officials said they had issues reporting the results of their caucuses through the app.

The software issues were the start of a cascading series of problems — including difficulties getting through on the phone to report results after precinct officials had trouble with the app — that led the Iowa Democratic Party to hold off on releasing results on Monday night.

Officials from multiple precincts described to CNN having problems with the app and the reporting process, though some others did say the software performed as needed.

Polk County Democratic Chairman Sean Bagniewski told CNN early Tuesday morning that tests of the app last week did not go entirely smoothly. Last Thursday, Bagniewski advised precinct chairs who couldn’t get the app to work to call in their results to the Iowa Democratic Party.

In a statement Monday night, the IDP said “this is simply a reporting issue, the app did not go down and this is not a hack or intrusion.”

The Democratic National Committee sent an email to presidential campaigns last Thursday, including details about the app, but saying “the reporting app was not built by the DNC team. We are sharing on behalf of the vendor and IDP [Iowa Democratic Party].”

A copy of the email was obtained by CNN.

Troy Price, the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, told campaigns in a letter obtained by CNN that a “coding issue” with the app was preventing it from transmitting accurate data.

“While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data,” Price wrote. “This issue was identified and fixed.” Price added that paper backups have successfully validated the data that made it into the app.

The app was built by Shadow Inc., a person familiar with the app told CNN. Shadow’s involvement was first reported by HuffPost. On its website, Shadow describes itself as a technology company serving progressive campaigns, and says that its employees previously worked for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s campaigns, as well as the AFL-CIO and the Democratic National Committee. Shadow didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

A CNN review of IDP’s expenditures showed that it had made payments to Shadow, the company that built the app, in 2019, totaling more than $60,000.

Shadow is connected to another group, ACRONYM. Early Tuesday morning, ACRONYM spokesman Kyle Tharp tweeted a statement distancing the group from Shadow.

“ACRONYM is a nonprofit and not a technology company,” said Tharp. “As such, we have not provided any technology to the Iowa Democratic Party, Presidential campaigns, or the Democratic National Committee.”

Tharp acknowledged ACRONYM’s role as one of a number of investors in Shadow. But he added that “we, like everyone else, are eagerly awaiting more information from the Iowa Democratic Party with respect to what happened.”

Last January, however, ACRONYM founder Tara McGowan tweeted proudly that ACRONYM was “launching” Shadow.

The IDP pushed heavily to make this year’s caucus a high-tech affair. In addition to the app, it initially proposed a new “virtual caucus” system that would see caucusgoers voting by smartphone — an idea that national party officials quickly shot down over security concerns.

A Democratic official raised doubts on Tuesday about Shadow’s expertise in software development, following CNN’s confirmation of the company’s role in developing the problematic Iowa caucus app.

Shadow’s background is primarily in voter-contact technologies such as text messaging, the official said, not app development.

“Our impression was they don’t do software development, to be honest,” the official said. “It was surprising to see them in all of this, because it seemed like their main work was more like organizing and get out out the vote through technology services. Our impression from some conversations with them was that that was not their area of expertise.”

A review of the company’s staff on LinkedIn appears to bolster the claim. Of 10 employees who self-identified as working for Shadow, only its chief technology officer, Krista Davis, listed any significant programming experience.

Davis spent eight years at Google as a senior software engineer, according to her profile, working on teams developing Google Hangouts and Google Docs. James Hickey, Shadow’s chief operating officer, spent two years as a quality assurance engineer at Apple, according to his LinkedIn profile. The company also has several junior developers and interns who completed their coding certifications only in the last couple of years.

The official predicted that the company’s foray into software development could be set back by the Iowa episode as other states reevaluate the company’s technology. Nevada Democrats were expected to use the same app in a few weeks.

“I can almost guarantee you, after all of this, I cannot imagine them going forward with Shadow during their caucuses,” said the Democratic official.

On paper, Shadow’s offices are located in a WeWork co-working space at the end of a hip, industrial-looking alley in Washington. A mural graces the wall at one end of the alley, which also boasts a trendy La Colombe coffee shop. The entire aesthetic befits the cool startup personality that Shadow seeks to convey on its website.

But Shadow is no longer at the temporary work space address listed in Iowa state records from just a couple of months ago.

When CNN visited Shadow’s offices Tuesday morning, a receptionist at the WeWork space said the company had moved out of its space roughly a month ago.

It was not immediately clear where the company had relocated, but the receptionist said that Shadow had occupied the WeWork space for some time before vacating the co-working site.

The Texas Democratic Party acknowledged on Tuesday that it had also hired Shadow, but a spokesman for the state party, Abhi Rahman, said the business relationship was limited to Shadow’s voter texting service.

“It’s very important to note here that we did not use them for any web development or app services,” Rahman told CNN.

Rahman said that Shadow was one of a number of different texting vendors that the state party has used for get-out-the-vote efforts in Texas.

According to Federal Election Commission records, the Texas Democratic Party paid Shadow a combined $250 last year in two separate payments — one in May and one in September.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign also acknowledged hiring Shadow, but like the Texas Democratic Party, said it only used the company for text messaging.

“We have contracted with this vendor in the past for text messaging services to help us contact voters,” said a Buttigieg campaign aide. “Totally unrelated to any apps they built for the party.”

The chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, Ben Wikler, told CNN that they also used Shadow’s texting service.

FEC records also show that the campaigns of former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand had also hired Shadow.

App failures during the caucuses

One precinct chair in Iowa describing the failure of the app, saying that the app got stuck on the very last step when reporting results, which was uploading a picture of the precinct’s results.

The chair said they were finally able to upload and screenshotted what they uploaded. Then the app showed different numbers than what they had submitted as captured in their screenshot.

A Democratic source tells CNN that the issue seems to lie with a major coding error in the app that was discovered once data started flowing into the IDP, and party officials began to see discrepancies in the three data streams as the results started coming. The source said that it took time for party officials to identify the issue and try to address it, and they noted there was not a problem with the raw data being put in by the individual precincts.

The national party is trying to help Iowa party officials resolve the coding error.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Montgomery County Sheriff's Department -- Photo of McKay Everett taken by his father Carl the day M...

Ben Kuebrich, KSL Podcasts

‘Ransom: Position of Trust’: The Phone Call

Episode one of the true-crime podcast "Ransom: Position of Trust" explores the day McKay disappeared and the beginnings of the investigation.

6 hours ago

FILE: Marijuana plants are grown at Essence Vegas' 54,000-square-foot marijuana cultivation facilit...

Carla K. Johnson, AP Medical Writer

Daily marijuana use outpaces daily drinking in the US, a new study says

Millions of people in the U.S. report using marijuana daily or nearly every day, and those people now outnumber those who say they are daily or nearly-daily drinkers of alcohol.

8 hours ago

Newly minted Michelin-starred chef Arturo Rivera Martínez prepares an order of tacos at the Tacos ...

Associated Press

The first Mexican taco stand to get a Michelin star is a tiny business where the heat makes the meat

Mexico City’s Tacos El Califa de León is the first taco cart to be awarded a Michelin star.

8 hours ago

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SG321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's ...

Jessie Yeung, Manveena Suri and Alex Stambaugh, CNN

‘All hell broke loose’: Passengers on Singapore Airlines flight describe nightmare at 37,000 feet

Passengers on a Singapore Airlines flight hit by severe turbulence described a sudden, dramatic drop.

9 hours ago

A Delta Air Lines plane sits at the A22 gate at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake C...

Art Raymond

Flights from Utah to Mexico at risk after fed decision to nix Delta-Aeromexico partnership. State leaders push back

Long-running flights agreement facilitated tens of millions of journeys, stronger relationships between Utah and Mexico, advocates say.

11 hours ago

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 14: U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivers remarks at an event ho...

Collin Binkley, AP Education Writer

Biden administration canceling student loans for another 160,000 borrowers

The Biden administration is canceling student loans for another 160,000 borrowers through a combination of existing programs.

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Nevada Democratic Party Abandons Problematic App Used In Iowa Caucuses