Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Iowa as metaphor

Frank Bruni asks, “Is Iowa a metaphor?” He offers this one after spending the past week in the state:

I’d never seen voters so twisted into knots. I’d never seen pundits so perplexed by the tea leaves in front of them and so hesitant to play fortuneteller. I’d never been so stymied for insight, so barren of instinct. This wasn’t a political contest; it was a kidney stone.

And by late Tuesday morning, it still hadn’t passed.
What I wonder about right now is “the mobile app” used with last night’s caucuses. Is it for Android? iOS? Both? Is the app’s security certain? (I doubt it.) Should an election require the use of Apple or Google products for results to be reported?

And should any state, much less a state with a population estimated as 90.7% white, play a singular role in shaping presidential elections? My awkward metaphor for the Iowa primary process, what with its pancake breakfasts and coin tosses: a Norman Rockwell painting with delusions of grandeur.


5:45 p.m.: from a New York Times article about the app, its creator, Shadow Inc., and Shadow’s backer Acronym:
Regardless of how it got the job, Shadow was put into a race that engineers at the most well-resourced tech giants, like Google, said could not be won. There was simply not enough time to build the app, test it widely to work out major bugs and then train its users.

Shadow was also handicapped by its own lack of coding know-how, according to people familiar with the company. Few of its employees had worked on major tech projects, and many of its engineers were relatively inexperienced.

Two people who work for Acronym, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to risk their jobs, acknowledged that the app had problems. It was so rushed, they said, that there was no time to get it approved by the Apple store. Had it been, it might have proved far easier for users to install.

Instead, the app had to be downloaded by bypassing a phone’s security settings, a complicated process for anyone unfamiliar with the intricacies of mobile operating systems, and especially hard for many of the older, less tech-savvy caucus chairs in Iowa.

The app also had to be installed using two-factor authentication and PIN passcodes. The information was included on worksheets given to volunteers at the Iowa precincts tallying the votes, but it added another layer of complication that appeared to hinder people.

comments: 2

Daughter Number Three said...

Minnesota said good riddance to the caucus for the presidency after 2016 (finally!) and I'm glad. Having now been to several caucuses over the years, I fully understand what they were doing last night, and value the ranked-choice-voting aspect of it... I admit it can look odd when the candidate who clearly has the most votes on the first round ends up with the same number of delegates as the third-place finisher, but that's what ranked choice is *for*: the voters whose candidates weren't viable picked another candidate on the second round.

But I have a bigger problem with the fact that caucuses necessarily exclude much larger numbers of people from participating, based on time availability in the evening on a particular day. That is not okay, and the positives from caucusing do not outweigh it.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, the system seems to assume that everyone goes home after work, eats dinner (or supper?), and then has the evening free. Not okay, and slightly crazy.