After abandoning plans to use the same kind of app that led to a debacle in Iowa, Nevada Democratic officials are testing backup plans this weekend as they attempt to come up with a clear alternative for their own state caucus, which begins in less than two weeks.
Though party leaders in Nevada are now vowing not to use any kind of app to tally the results of their Feb. 22 caucus, it remains unclear what they will put in their place.
“We are not using an app, we are not using something you can download on your phone,” said Alana Mounce, the executive director of the Nevada Democrats.
But what they will use instead is still unknown and presidential campaigns are increasingly anxious about what will happen when early voting begins next weekend. The Nevada Democrats began testing backup procedures Friday, but state party officials declined to give any details on what they were testing, other than to say that it would not be a phone-based app.
By Tuesday morning, even before the full scope of the chaos in Iowa had become clear, state party officials scrapped their plans to use an app made by Shadow Inc., the same firm that created a caucus app for Iowa.
Ms. Mounce and other Nevada Democratic officials have put on a brave public face in recent days, trying to assure everyone that things are just fine.
“Believe it or not, we feel good, we feel confident,” she said in an interview. “We have a redundancy plan that is being fully evaluated to make sure it is simple, efficient and secure.”
Still, as Iowa has made clear, the caucus process can hardly be described as simple.
With so much unknown just a week before early voting starts, many Democrats in the state are anxious and panicked that disarray is inevitable in Nevada too.
This year, Nevada has implemented early caucus sites, where voters will indicate on a paper ballot their first, second and third choice for the Democratic nomination, and can add fourth and fifth choices as well. The early option was intended to better serve people whose schedules did not allow them to caucus in-person, but has now added an extra layer of complexity to the process. Those results were supposed to be fed into an app which would then be used with the results from the in-person caucus on Feb. 22.
Ms. Mounce said that the state party had already completed test runs of the app for early voting and held a kind of drill with security officials, including from the Department of Homeland Security. Though she said that the test, which involved hundreds of people, did not raise any reason for alarm, officials decided that they could not risk an Iowa repeat.
The state party paid Shadow at least $60,000 to develop an app and officials believed the company had created a slightly different plan for the state.
But some of the confusion in Iowa was not connected to the app itself, and instead was rooted in the way the results are reported. This year, the Democratic National Committee required that both Iowa and Nevada release not just the winner of state delegate equivalents, as they have traditionally done, but also two raw vote tallies. Ms. Mounce said there was no discussion of changing that plan or the early caucus sites.
The Nevada caucus works somewhat differently than it does in Iowa, in addition to the early caucusing option in more than 80 locations, written preference cards will be available in English, Spanish and Tagalog.
Because of the complicated calculus that tallies the results from the early caucus sites to live precincts, it would be exceedingly difficult to rely on volunteer precinct captains to make such calculations, several local party activists said.