February 12, 2020 / 7:24 PM / 14 days ago

After Iowa meltdown, Nevada Democrats will use scannable early voting ballots

(Reuters) - Nevada Democrats will use scannable paper ballots for early voting in their caucuses after problems with an app plunged Iowa’s nominating contest into chaos last week, according to a state party memo sent to presidential campaigns.

FILE PHOTO: An Iowa Caucus precinct worker counts Iowa Democratic Caucus paper ballots as caucus votes are tallied after a Democratic presidential caucus at West Des Moines Christian Church in West Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., February 3, 2020. Picture taken February 3, 2020. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Nevada’s new system will have early voters fill out paper ballots that will be scanned at the end of each day at designated voting hubs, said the memo from the Nevada State Democratic Party obtained by Reuters.

The Feb. 22 caucuses in Nevada are the next contest in the Democratic race to find a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump. Early voting will start on Saturday and take place over a four-day period at more than 80 locations.

Difficulties using the Iowa mobile app, which was developed by tech firm Shadow Inc, were blamed for a days-long delay in reporting the final results from Iowa’s presidential caucuses, triggering worries about Nevada’s caucuses.

Disclosures to the Federal Election Commission show the Nevada State Democratic Party had also paid Shadow $58,000 for “technology services.” The party announced earlier it would no longer use “the same app or vendor” as Iowa.

The state party memo said Nevada early voters will check in with volunteers using a PDF voter roll loaded on party-purchased iPads. They will fill out a form with their unique secretary of state ID numbers, to track participation and make sure votes are counted in voters’ home precincts on caucus day.

The state party and the Democratic National Committee did not respond to Reuters questions about the new system.

The memo did not give more information about a digital tool that the party plans to calculate caucus voting, a system that has led some election tech and security experts to dismiss Nevada’s attempts to distance itself from Iowa’s problems.

“Overall it sounds like a very rushed process which is exactly what got Iowa in trouble,” said Betsy Cooper, director of the Aspen Tech Policy Hub.

One caucus volunteer said the state party’s effort to provide more information was a positive step but there were still unanswered questions, including how results in the caucus room would be communicated to the party for tallying.

“I recognize that they’re in a bind but I just am worried because they’re so secretive,” said Seth Morrison, who will be a site lead in North Las Vegas.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders solidified his front-runner status in the Democratic race with a narrow victory in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, and former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg was close behind him.

Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by John Whitesides and Alistair Bell

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