Bad voting tech is ruining US elections

– On February 3rd, Iowa went to the polls, officially kicking off the
Democratic presidential primary. It was the first big chance for candidates to seize the momentum and it was kind of a disaster. – It all comes down to technology. It appears that this app just failed. – A technical disaster. – And what seemed to be
coding problem with the app. – You probably heard about this app that was supposed to report
results back from the caucuses. On the night of the vote, it broke, which meant the precincts were
suddenly sending back totals through clogged phone
lines or, in some cases, texting pictures of the caucus worksheet. Because of the incomplete results, it took days to nail down
who had actually won. Now there’s no indication
that this was a cyber attack or a conspiracy or anything, but it’s still a really alarming sign, particularly as we head into
the 2020 general election. Voting infrastructure is
really vulnerable, underfunded, and increasingly, it’s breaking down when we need it the most. This is one of the biggest
threats to democracy right now and it comes down to a technology problem. But to see why it’s happening, you gotta look at the big picture. (dramatic music) So the problem here was a single app made by a firm called Shadow to help the more than 1,600
precincts send back results. Unfortunately, the app
was made quick and dirty, apparently built over two
months for just $60,000. That might sound like a lot, but when you’re making
iOS and Android apps plus a whole database
to maintain the results, you go through it pretty fast. When Microsoft bankrolled a similar effort for the 2016 Iowa caucuses,
members of the team said the bill was closer
to a million dollars. The Shadow team also made
weird rookie mistakes like distributing the app
through a testing platform that made it hard to even download. Even when precincts
could download the app, a coding error meant they could
only report partial results, which then meant the party had to restart the entire process from the beginning just to make sure the numbers were right. Days later, they’re still
sorting through it all. Now apps fail all the time, and
given the shoestring budget, it’s not that surprising
that this one did. But because it’s election tech, the fallout’s been really intense. – But what we’ve also seen is an enormous amount of social media with a whole bunch of
crazy conspiracy theories, a whole lot of arguments that this is maybe why
people shouldn’t vote. – When the tech fails, it
hurts the whole process. Everyone assumes that things went bad because someone wanted
to hurt their candidate, and it’s not a crazy thing to think because in America specifically, voting has gone from a fundamental right to one more piece of the partisan game. A lot of the people running US elections just want to turn out as few of the other side’s
supporters as possible, whether that means kicking
people off voter rolls without telling them or
shutting down polling places so people have to wait hours
just to cast their vote. Funding’s a big part of it
too, and this is a big reason why elections are so
underfunded in the US. Your local polling place is
usually run by the county with only a tiny bit of
funding from the state and federal governments. So even when a county election board wants to make voting easy and secure, they often can’t afford to. That weakens the whole system,
just like we saw in Iowa. Now it doesn’t have to be this way. Policies like automatic voter
registration can stop people from playing political
games with voter rolls. More polling places mean shorter lines. And if you make Election
Day a federal holiday, you won’t get a huge rush
as soon as work lets out. You can even spread Election
Day out over a whole weekend just so everyone can make it to the polls. But we don’t do any of that in the US and it’s because a lot
of the people in power just don’t want everybody to vote. People worry a lot about cyber attacks on voting infrastructure, but really, we don’t need hackers to
break our election systems. We’re doing it ourselves. The whole idea of elections, the whole idea of democracy itself, is to let these opposing
factions agree on a process and agree to be bound by the result, even if it doesn’t go their way. But the more we degrade that system, the less reason there is to trust it and the less it’s actually able
to resolve those conflicts. That starts with the tech breaking, tech like the Iowa app,
the registration roll, the voting machine itself. But it ends with a much deeper rupture in the way political power
works in this country. And fixing that rupture
is gonna be a lot harder than fixing an app. Thanks for watching. Throw us a like if you liked it, and if you want to hear me complain about the
government a little bit more, check out our video on robo-calls. They’re actually doing like an okay job on that one finally, but
still, I have some concerns.

About the author


  1. Lol the Democrats !
    Can't handle a app it's a total disaster

    Also the Democrats let us run your country and healthcare though !!!

  2. I normally enjoy watching Verge videos but when I heard "It is because a lot of the people in power just don't want everybody to vote" I felt sick. That affirmation lacks of context, facts and data that supports it and ends being just an attemp to mislead the audience. Russell needs to be more professional and to remeber the basics of being a journalist. The era in wich we are living demands of people in the media the maximum standars of ethics and professionalism.

  3. Mobile and web developer here. This video is really good perspective into the challenges and realities of even minor software productions. One of the things I can't help but note is that I don't see why this couldn't have been a web app (it likely was some kind of Cordova or React Native already, anyways). You could cut the complexity of client distribution to a fraction and you'd have browser security in front of you. This gives small software firms a bad name. Shadow should be disbanded and all of those employees should go work for larger companies for a bit to see how to make software the right way in 2020.

  4. I’ll take the weekend voting if we reduce mail in ballots. I’ve been in a nursing home where the nursing station was filling out the ballots.

  5. A shoddy company making a database and app on the cheap, without major testing, and distributed to folks that honestly don't feel comfortable using a smartphone. All the stereotypes of older, white people not able to use technology became true.

  6. You guys are hiding what’s obvious.. They stole again Bernie Sanders nomination.. The only big picture is that illegals won’t be able to vote no more in this country.. Voter ID is coming

  7. Solution: Voting weekend, and paper + pen voting forms.
    Accuracy and availability are the most important things. I don’t mind waiting a week if that’s how long it takes to count the papers

  8. Corporate "liberal" media is lying by omission already. Buttigieg tried to rig the election and got caught. Now they're rigging Bernie's minority support. Blatantly racist.

  9. Pete and Biden, Iowa dem party and Nevada dem part donated to shadow. Shadow employees are connected to Hilary. Come on now, did they really give tens of thousands to this company for fun?

  10. Its just common sense to be able to vote on our phones.
    Voting places are like malls, no one goes to them, and for the most part no one trusts the process anyway.

  11. Wait, you do realize that this was totally a democratic convention problem not a US election system problem. You realize that right?

  12. Paper voting with volunteering people counting is the only way voting and counting should be done. You can watch your polling stations votes being counted by many regular people.

    Can you trust your vote is really counted when voting with a button push? Any form of electronic voting and counting can not and should not be trusted.

    Tom Scott has a good video talking about this. Please find and watch it.

  13. Cyberattack?! Are you joking?
    One of the candidate's campaign funded the App with the help of former Clinton campaign. And he suddenly jumps from the last place to contention for the first place. As if it's the first time the DNC is trying to screw Bernie Sanders.

  14. Yes, I am registered to vote. I just checked now, online. I’ll do that again about a week before Election Day. Don’t trust these people, at all!

  15. I believe 100% that the screw up in Iowa was due to a cell phone app. Totally, completely, utterly believe it. Yep yep yep. It's as simple as that. Yep. Whatever.

  16. So you can do banking, pension, taxes over the web and you can't do voting? wow…you people are really easy to please and twist around. There is a reason America is going side ways.

  17. Don’t think the tech is ready to handle Elections yet. Elections should be paper-based. Tech security is not foolproof.

  18. At the 40 second mark you state "it doesn't seem like a cyberattack or conspiracy". Shadow, the app's maker, refused vetting for the app by DHS(!), it's leadership team is a who's who of Hillary Clinton's campaign tech staff, and Mayor Pete paid a fairly hefty sum for "analytics" data( the only candidate to pay them over 5 figures by the way, also the only candidate to declare victory before caucus results were even being reported🤷‍♂️) Even a whiff of impropriety is too much at such an important crossroads for the Democratic party. While this doesn't seem to be a conspiracy from within the DNC itself it does look like a small, tight-knit group of disgruntled campaign staff, who were promised the world and then unceremoniously dumped when their meal ticket couldn't deliver, have taken their skills and attempted to offer themselves up as digital mercs, only to realize far too late that they were already being watched. I'm guessing some of your own paymasters may run in circles with these same people, hence the kid gloves when speaking about the Acronym(parent company and sole investor in Shadow) and Shadow(the app's maker) Blink twice in your next video at the 40 second mark if you need us to extract you 😂

  19. You didn’t explain that former Clinton staffers got the Green light from DNC to develop this app for use in many states. Iowa was the test run but DNC was involved. Nevada was scheduled to use the same app. Just too generic and philosophical without enough documentation.

  20. The GOP certainly doesn't want anything to change. Voter suppression is about the only way they ever win an election in the modern day.

  21. I wouldn't think korea was actually ahead of this… In Korea you don't register to vote. You just.. show up (with your ID) and vote. The voting day is a national holiday, and even then we also have early voting that takes place for few days, again no need to register for early voting at all. Also for early voting you don't need to vote in your city/county/province. The system knows your constituency and automatically prints out the right paper for you. The only time you need to register to vote is when you're overseas (for overseas voting), or postal vote. Even if you're overseas korean embassy will set up a poll somewhere in that country to vote.

  22. Odd, who owns the app company? Who agreed to buy it? Who actually created it and checked it? Why did DEMs turn down, not ask for DHS to independently check it for free? Just odd.

  23. The US should follow these steps if they want their elections to be fair.

    1. Set up a nationwide independent election commission that will conduct elections in every state and territory.

    2. Use blockchain technology for maintaining electoral rolls in which voters will registered as voters and not as Democrats or Republicans.

    3. Ban caucuses and go with only with Primaries where every voter has the right to pick presidential candidate from both the parties.

    4. Use 100% offline voting machines with voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines.

  24. I'm in Taiwan for the month, and they had their national election in Jan. It was widely reported to be a very transparent process. Citizens of age are automatically registered to vote. Directions on where to go, what to bring on voting day were clearly communicated. Voting was by paper ballots using a stamp on clearly labeled ballots. Sample ballots were printed in the newspapers, so no confusion. Ballot counting was open to the public at each precinct for observation. There were numerous checks and double checks, upon arrival at the voting precinct and during vote counts. No chance of hacking paper ballots, and results were publicized the same night.

  25. Mayor Pete gave Shadow 42000 dollars. There were many inconsistencies between the districts figures and the final results after the DNC took over the count, always in favour of Mayor Pete and to the detriment of Sanders and in some cases Warren. Everything about it stinks and to assume it's error rather than intended fuckery is now just being naive.

  26. The big issue is that the Dems have all of Silicon Valley behind them and they turned to their cronies instead for the app. Even if the app is on the up-and-up, the relationships of Shadow's execs make this debacle reek.

  27. Australia's system of election works very well.
    You turn 18 you register to vote, and its compulsory to attend/submit a ballot. You DO NOT have to write anything on the ballot… you can throw your vote away and leave it blank (or graffiti it).
    Elections are run by fully funded independent government commissions.

    Paper voting only, electronic voting is NOT available as it requires legislative changes that no party can agree on especially with how often they seen IT systems fail (they tried to do electronic census survey one year and it died a horrible public embarressment) 😛

    Anytime from the electoral roll is closed (usually a week after the election date is called) to the day before polling day (which can be 3 weeks or more)
    * You can vote early by mail, free of charge. (especially overseas travellers or service men/women)
    * You can vote early by going to local polling centres usually 1 per town or surburb at a local government office.

    On Electrion day, (if you have not voted early), you vote on Saturday at one of many election booths set-up at local schools.
    If there is still a line at poll closing, everyone lined up can still vote (they can't turn anyone away who is waiting)

    If you fail to mail a voting card or attend a polling booth to get your name marked off the roll, you will be sent a letter declaring a fine for fail for its a $20 fine (Federal) and up to $80 in some state elections. You can also declare your unable to vote with medical certificate to squash the fine. (but its cheaper to pay the fine than go to a doctor)

  28. while we in switzerland tested e-voting for over five years with millions of spending to decided in the end it‘s not save enough xD

  29. How is this sort of app + server backend not open source? Flutter/React with a docker container for the server can't be that hard.

  30. You know if you moved to representative voting or transferrable votes from first past the post, you could actually fix a lot of these problems. A "simple" fix would add tons of democracy, transparency and accountability and would very probably be cheaper as well.

  31. In Germany we vote on a Sunday, seems like a good time for everyone to vote. And voter registration happens automatically when you register to the city which is mandatory.

  32. USA can really learn something from India where 900 million ppl voted in 2019. Every voting day is a holiday. Why won't it be? Makes no sense.

  33. Reveals the software has not been developed enough to leave the CIA Russian footprint. The DNC still owns the the fact they have manipulated the count, AGAIN.
    When Dear Leader is elected, I hope to be hired as the "Woodshed Disposal Officer".

  34. So Microsoft made you an app for 1 million dollars in 2016….why did you go ahead and make a new app and only think you needed to spend 60K?

  35. No conspiracy…. Company called shadow .. Ex Clintonites… large Cheatin' Pete contribution? Really. Crazy conspiracy? I think not. It's all so dodgy

  36. The fact that a large majority of voter purging/gerrymandering/anti-democracy policies come from Republicans, yet videos like these don’t call that out explicitly, is a sincere disservice. Saying “people in power don’t want you to vote” makes people think the entire government doesn’t want them to vote, when in reality it’s one political party that’s straight up anti-democracy.

  37. There's nothing more american than voter suppression lol…. few ballot machines/voting places, unregistering people under the guise of 'preventing voter fraud', and overall making the process extremely difficult and tedious is just the new version of those old literacy tests or 'only land owners can vote' rules

  38. It is reported that the results are complete and reported but go to Iowa Democrat Party web page and select caucus result tab: ooops, error 404, not found. So what are those results again???

  39. Before we discuss automatic voter registration and public holidays — how about asking why we need an app in the first place to report election results. Because we can? Because it's new or modern? It seems to me that a robust system of pen, paper and telephone combined with redundancy and verification can work rather well in both a caucus in a state like Iowa. One thing is for sure — you shouldn't have a single source of failure (like an app that is essential for reporting results).

  40. Not true about the need to create a national Election Day. Almost EVERY STATE HOLDS EARLY ELECTIONS FOR OVER A WEEK!!!!!!! INCLUDING OVER WEEKENDS!!! DO UR RESEARCH!!!!!

  41. the clinton-funded, buttigeig-owned 'shadow' app worked exactly the way it was programmed to work; with a temporal glitch designed to stop reporting in order to curb bernie's enthusiasm. clinton and the establishment hate bernie and will do anything, and i mean anything, to stop sanders. buttigeig is the clinton-owned deep-state manchurian candidate for sure. a corporate tool for the establishment and will do what he is told.

  42. It's good to use tech for quick results etc but manual vote counting should also be part of the process just to verify those results.

  43. Trump’s 2016 election is not proof of Russia’s or any other entity’s interference, but proof that the deepstate’s social engineering and other psy ops, just, don’t work! And THAT’s their real problem…………. THAT, precisely, is what the ‘international coalition’, deepstate and totalitarian europeists, are in denial of!

  44. NSA should create Online Voting website/App so citizens can vote from anywhere, and live broadcast results. Its easier and safer from being hacked.

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