Iowa Caucus Reporting Results Is a Disaster

Since the Iowa caucus is a disaster — I have some thoughts.

by Eric Holdeman / February 4, 2020

There are several disaster lessons to be learned from how the Iowa caucus FUBAR has rolled out in the last 24 hours.

Let's start with having an app to collect and summarize the election results. First of all, technology and elections are two segments of our current culture that I would be very suspect in combining. Just the thought of having the results be tabulated by an app calls into question the security and accuracy of the information being reported. We do live in an era of foreign election interference! Give me a break. And I like technology.

Then there is the issue of 1,600 reporting caucus sites and you are using a new tool. What seems intuitive to one looks complicated to others. I have not read the details on the software glitch, but just the challenge of so many reporting sites using new technology would have given me pause. Stress testing the app would have been one of my priorities — after someone "directed me" that I did not have a choice on using it.

Planning for a manual back-up, using a good-old, tried-and-true method would have been a good 'Plan B' to have in place should there be a technical glitch. 

Then, in disaster terms, something I've always emphasized, is "Bad news does not get better with age." Get it out and you be the one to tell the story — not some critic hurling rocks at you in your glass house. The software developer committed the sin of not coming out immediately and saying "mea culpa," our fault! It was sometime today that they had their first communications.

Then there is this summary from CNN. Well said, Jake.

CNN's Jake Tapper: "We're in a time where faith in institutions is eroding"

CNN's Jake Tapper said that, at a time when "faith in institutions is eroding," Democrats in Iowa have handled the delayed results in a way that is opposite to crisis communication advice.

"We're in a time where faith in institutions is eroding," Tapper said. "And it is important to have the faith and integrity in elections, especially after 2016 when the Russians interfered with the elections."

He continued:

"So, it is very important that elected officials and the party leaders do everything they can to have faith, and encourage faith in the electoral process and the problem here is that there's been very little communication, there's been very little answering of the questions."

Tapper explained that crisis communication experts typical advise people and institutions "get out all of the information as soon as possible" and "be completely transparent.

"They have done the exact opposite of that very classic or reasonable advice," Tapper said.

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