These days, it seems as if there is an “app” for everything. But the fiasco last week with the Iowa Democratic Party’s presidential nominating caucuses is a reminder that the appeal of new technology needs to be tempered by concern over reliability.
Iowa’s caucus process is the first contest among candidates seeking the highest office in the land. It also is an unusual method of gauging voter support. Instead of a conventional primary election, Iowans use a town-hall meeting format, precinct by precinct.
Democrat leaders in that state decided this year to make more use of technology in handling their party’s caucuses. Calling it a disaster is putting it mildly. Even a week after Iowa Democrats trekked to their precincts for caucuses, final results were uncertain.
A massive, pervasive breakdown of the new system made the process an embarrassment.
Clearly, Iowa Democrat leaders should have tested the system better and trained precinct-level workers better.
Though other states in the presidential nominating process rely on conventional primary elections, the Iowa fiasco is a valuable reminder that while technology can allow us to do things faster and more efficiently, over-reliance on it can be risky.
Throughout the nation, thoughtful political party and government election officials ought to view the Iowa experience as a warning: Being certain the a new “app” works as advertised is imperative.