Last night the Democratic National Committee shit the bed. In an attempt to modernize its voting process, the Iowa Democratic Party contracted a company called Shadow, a subsidiary of a larger company called Acronym, to build an app to report the election results. They gave the developers $63,000 and two months to build the solution and they got exactly what they paid for.
Now, maybe I’m a huge asshole who is missing some vital piece of information, but why did they not just use a Google Form? Or WhatsApp? Or Telegram? Or iMessage? What, exactly, was the point in building a custom app outside of spending taxpayer money? If you’re going to hire a third-party developer, why not hire the best?
It’s entirely secure and encrypted
A Google Form is a simple, completely obvious menu for entering information. It’s been product tested so that even the Boomers in your office can enter their Secret Santa info. It’s entirely secure and encrypted, it comes with tons of custom permissions options, and you can track every single thing that a user does within it. Google’s account security is second to none and, while I fear a world where giant tech monopolies power our elections, I fear a world run by a fly-by-night group of Democratic strategists and out of work developers a whole lot more.
Listen, I know we should be using paper ballots. I know the incentives are too high for somebody to mess with a complicated technical solution. I know how fragile data is. But, if states are going to insist on using tech to get their results out to the media faster, can they — for the love of god — just use an off-the-shelf solution? In fact, use multiple! Have your local party reps report this data via Google Form, verify their data in WhatsApp, and send a photo of your paper results for posterity over iMessage.
Throw two-factor authentication and physical security keys at the problem. Google supports both! And, while using off-the-shelf tech is perfectly serviceable, they could actually partner with Google itself and ask the company to design a best-practices solution. I’m sure the lefty Googlers would leap at the chance to prevent another 2016 fiasco.
The likelihood of all these companies getting hacked or interfering in the data in the same way at the same time in the same place is infinitesimally lower than the likelihood of somebody at an underfunded startup fucking things up.
If I can do all my bank transactions online, if I can vote for the next American Idol online, if I can beam my medical records online, surely there is a solution to be found. Nothing is unhackable — but Google Drive comes a lot closer than “IowaReporterApp.”