Iowa Caucus Debacle Highlights Need for Caution With New Technologies

Statement of Aquene Freechild, Co-Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

The debacle surrounding Iowa’s primary election results reporting are a stark reminder that introducing new technology into elections at the last minute is unwise. There were plenty of warnings that went unheeded.

Though by all accounts there was no compromise of the Iowa system, internet-connected vote reporting systems are not secure. Adding complicated new systems and new vulnerabilities to voting systems can damage public confidence, even when there’s been no hack.

Election officials and the parties should be wary of technology vendors promising convenience. When the only value of a technology is supposed convenience for election administrators, it’s worth weighing what can go wrong versus the convenience gained. Voter frustration and confusion can damage trust in election officials and is far worse than the inconvenience of having to call in or drive over election results. Thankfully Iowans have paper to rely on, something every state should have for all key elections systems.

Relatedly, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate was right to quickly and clearly counter false claims of voter fraud asserted by the far right. As president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, Pate’s clear and quick response as the state’s chief election official serves as a model for secretaries nationwide.