After Iowa Voting App Struggles, Experts Warn of Dangers with New Election Tech

Precinct captain Carl Voss, of Des Moines, Iowa, holds his iPhone that shows the Iowa Democratic Party's caucus reporting app Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Precinct captain Carl Voss, of Des Moines, Iowa, holds his iPhone that shows the Iowa Democratic Party's caucus reporting app Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. AP Photo


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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Philadelphia ponders council term limits … Utah may make daylight saving time permanent … Florida considers using drones to combat pythons.

The Iowa Democratic Party’s difficulties using a smartphone app to help with tallying the results of Monday’s presidential caucuses highlight the perils of new technology in the election space, experts said Tuesday. Some of the volunteer precinct chairs trying to report results from their local caucuses said the app, created by a small company with ties to former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, didn’t work Monday night, while others didn’t even try to use it but then found it impossible to get through on a call line set up by the party. New York Times columnist Kevin Roose wrote that the experience demonstrated that high tech isn’t necessarily best when it comes to voting. “Basically, we should be begging for the most analog election technology possible,” he wrote. Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan election group, said the internet shouldn’t be used for voting because it simply isn’t secure. “The situation with Iowa’s caucus reveals the risks associated with technology, in this case with a mobile app, but more importantly that there needs to be a low-tech solution in order to recover from technological failures—no matter the cause,” she said in a statement. In the case of the Iowa caucuses, there was a backup: paper ballots. Party officials began releasing the vote tallies on Tuesday evening, with Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price apologizing for the problems. "We hit a stumbling block on the reporting of the back end of the data, but we know this data is accurate,” he said. Unlike with primary elections, which are run by local and state election officials, caucuses are run by the state parties. On Tuesday, the Nevada Democratic Party said it would not use an app in its caucus on February 22.  [New York Times; Los Angeles Times; Des Moines Register; Las Vegas Review Journal]

TERM LIMITS | The Philadelphia City Council will consider two proposals to impose term limits on council members. One measure would limit members to serving four terms, or 16 years, while another would cap a person’s time on the council at five terms, or 20 years. City Council President Darrell Clarke brought the 20-year proposal to the council along with a proposal to eliminate the city’s “resign-to-run” policy that requires candidates to quit their current elected positions before they run for another one. Philadelphia politicians have tried before to remove the resignation requirement, but voters rejected the ballot questions in 2007 and 2014. “There is this hue and cry for term limits, so I thought the consolidation of those two issues might actually get some traction. We are putting it in the mix to have a conversation about removing the provision of resign to run, and if that is enacted I am prepared to possibly, and I do say possibly, support a five-term limit. But not one without the other,” Clarke said. Opponents to term limits say that lawmakers need time to build policy experience in order to be effective, but John Carey, a political science professor at Dartmouth College, argued the limits in these proposals are reasonable. “Those effects would not be anywhere near as stark under the configuration that Philadelphia is considering. Sixteen years or 20 years is enough time to build up some experience. This is a moderate solution,” he said. Larry Ceisler, a political consultant, said that the resign-to-run policy makes it difficult for city councilmembers to run for mayor or for mayors to run for state-wide office. “Philadelphia politicians cannot run for a state office without resigning and, therefore, you don’t see many candidates from Philadelphia running for statewide office. I think that it restrains and holds back our city’s ability to have more influence in Harrisburg,” he said. [WHYY; Philadelphia Tribune]

DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME | A bill to make daylight saving time permanent advanced out of committee in the Utah Senate. In order to go into effect, the shift would have to be approved by Congress, and the surrounding states would have to adopt the same policy. The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Wayne Harper, said that 26 states around the country are considering similar legislation. “We’re looking at Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and those other states. They also have to act so we’re not an island on our own,” he said. Sen. Daniel Thatcher, a Republican, said that the state legislature already considered a similar bill last year, and that without congressional approval, neither effort means anything. “But if we pass it, does that mean I stop hearing about daylight saving time every single legislative session? OK, I’m in,” he said. Two states, Arizona and Hawaii, operate on one standard time year-round. [KSL; Salt Lake Tribune]

DRONES | Florida lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow the state to use drones in order to hunt pythons in the Everglades. Florida law currently restricts the use of drones by law enforcement and other agencies, but the bill would create an exception for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Forest Service to use drones for “managing and eradicating invasive exotic plants and animals.” Invasive pythons have been a long running problem in the state’s ecosystem, and are sometimes the result of people letting pets lose when they become too big. [Associated Press]

PORCH PIRATES | The Tennessee legislature is considering a bill that would raise  penalties for convicted “porch pirates,” or those who steal packages. The legislation would make the first offense punishable based on the value of the stolen items. Subsequent offenses would carry a felony charge, up to 12 years in prison, and a fine up to $5,000. [WMC 5]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty. Laura Maggi is the managing editor for Route Fifty.

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