Nevada Democrats design a new plan for assemblies, trying to alleviate growing concerns about the process

In a memorandum distributed to representatives of the 2020 campaigns on Monday night, party officials described several new procedures for the early meeting, which will begin on Saturday.

Among them was the use of a Google online registration form designed to help party officials “track participants and expedite data collection” and assign a numerical “voter PIN” and a number of Separate identification linked to the state voter registry to help route a participant ballot to their place of origin.

The plan comes a week after the Nevada Democrats were forced to break their caucus plans following the disastrous result of the Iowa caucus. The party had been scheduled to use two specially designed applications developed by the shadow tech firm, the same company that designed the vote recording application blamed for reporting problems in Iowa.

But experts warned that this new proposal would leave caucuses vulnerable to major security threats. They also said they were baffled by how the plan would work.

Under the original plan, Democrats could go to any early voting site, even outside the precincts where they are registered to vote, and classify their three main presidential options in an iPad-based application. The plan was for these data to be transmitted to the voting precincts for assemblies in person on February 22.

The local caucus leader, using a second reporting application, would have incorporated his election into the first lineup and would reassign them if his first election was not viable. The second application would have transmitted the final results to the state party.

When Iowa fell into confusion, the Nevada Democrats quickly announced that they would no longer use Shadow-designed applications and said they were looking for other providers, to calm the concerns of local and national Democrats. By Thursday, just over a week before the early voting began, state Democrats announced they had completely ruled out the applications.

Over the weekend, party officials developed an iPad-based “tool”, which insisted it was not an application, to help track the data for early voting. It was not immediately clear if the Google registration form described in the Monday night memo was the tool that had been tested. A state party official did not respond to a request for comment.

Several campaigns declined to comment while trying to decipher the latest developments. Several campaign officials have complained about the lack of transparency of the party. Although there were several conference calls last week between the State party and the campaigns, several Democrats said party officials had been “closed” and slow to offer specific information on how the state’s ambitious early voting plan would work without use. of the applications.

They have also wondered if the state party is equipped to protect and manage data from the more than 2,000 caucus sites in Nevada and avoid the kind of chaos that broke out when the Iowa Democrats were forced to ask for their statewide results. . The Democrats involved in the process expect about 90,000 people to participate; They expect more than half of this year’s caucus attendees to vote early. The state party is not making a projection.

In Monday’s note, Alana Mounce, executive director of the party, tried to alleviate some of those concerns. She said that early voting participants will be asked to complete a “voter card” with the pre-generated PIN and identification number of their registration in the Nevada Secretary of State’s file, which would help route the ballot to their homes. Voters would write down their presidential preferences on the paper ballot and then insert it into an urn monitored by volunteers who have received “solid training,” he said.

At the end of each day, the urn would be transported to “designated ballot processing centers monitored by the state party where the ballots will be scanned … and stored securely,” Mounce wrote, adding that there would be a “chain of custody. clear “documented in the box for security reasons.

“We have simplified the voting process and incorporated additional redundancies to optimize the information and ensure that we minimize errors,” Mounce wrote.

Experts said they were baffled by the state party’s notice.

It was not clear how quickly voter registration information entered on iPads would be transmitted to the state in preparation for general elections, said David Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The Internet connection involved in that transmission, and generally required for the use of Google Forms, makes the process vulnerable to what is called a denial of service attack, said Dan Wallach, who heads the computer security lab at the Rice University Such an attack occurs when hackers direct a flow of Internet traffic to the servers that support the configuration, which causes a crash.

Wallach said he was less concerned with voter registration systems than the actual expression of voter preferences, but said the risk was present.

While the vote itself would be analogous for the initial period of the assemblies, Jefferson said the details of the ballot scanning system were unclear.

“I could create an electronic image of the ballot and do nothing else, but I could also interpret the ballot and keep a cumulative total of who issues preferences for which candidate,” Jefferson said. “It is not clear in the instructions of the state party what it is.”

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