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- 2020 Democratic primary stumbles over ill-prepared application
The Democratic primary campaign is off to a rocky start. In Iowa, the recognition of results could not be carried out in a timely manner due in particular to an application that had not been sufficiently tested.
The Democratic Party could hardly get off to a worse start. On February 3, when he was scheduled to begin campaigning for the U.S. presidential election in Iowa, and allow some candidates to benefit from a momentum for the future, everything stalled in the evening because of an incident in the accounting of results. And, according to the New York Times part of the blame lies with the use of an application that was designed shortly before the primer and has not been tested in real-world conditions.
Among the problems reported in the American daily is the inability to communicate results in time to allow for prioritization of candidates. For example, Democratic county presidents in Iowa have encountered problems using the program. The fallback solution, a dedicated phone line, also experienced a problem, as there were significant waiting times before having someone on the line, sometimes up to an hour.
“Not hacking or trespassing.”
The confusion caused by the Democratic Party’s difficulty in correctly aggregating the results from the different counties was such that a spokesperson for the movement had to intervene to explain that it was “simply a concern to report the results, the application did not crash and it is not a hacking or an intrusion” – the vicissitudes of the previous presidential election of 2016, in which Russia is accused of having interfered, are still in everyone’s mind.
“We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results,” she continued. “The underlying data and the paper trail are solid,” she added, warning that “it will simply take time to report the results. Results were supposed to arrive shortly after 10 p.m. local time, once members had been selected, but they never arrived. At this time, the Party expects to give the final results on Tuesday.
Bernie Sanders, here in 2015, is one of the favourites for the Democratic primary // Source: Phil Roeder
This first use of the application in the campaign is a bad omen, as it is supposed to be reused for other states, such as Nevada, which is the next step in the Democratic primary. Especially since the program is only two months old and has not been thoroughly tested to ensure its reliability and robustness, particularly in the face of risks of computer attacks, especially when it is involved in a political election
When asked about this, the Director of Cyber Security at the US Department of the Interior said that this application had not been reviewed or evaluated by his office. It has also been kept secret by the Democratic Party, making it impossible to take advantage of the external assistance of the community of IT security specialists to detect minor and critical malfunctions and to observe under what circumstances it is no longer operational.
Several other computer security specialists have more generally criticized the idea of using applications and the Internet during political elections, as these technologies are not mature and secure enough to be used without any risk. “The most important rule for introducing technology into voting is to be extremely conservative,” said Matt Blaze, a professor of law and computer science at Georgetown University in Washington.
In fact, the incident illustrates the technological pitfalls of using it at election time: the application was introduced at the last minute, in the middle of a campaign, on a national scale, without having been tested, including on a larger scale to see if it could withstand a greater load – such as an election night in Iowa. The Democratic Party got a glimpse of the problem in 2016, when its Democratic National Committee network was hacked.