Elections can be messy things, but at the heart of them is a simple count of the votes cast: one plus one, equals two. Very simple math done by simple folks just trying to sort out who won.
In Iowa, the Democratic Paty hired a third party software company called “Shadow Inc” to create a mobile app that allowed precinct captains to record their results and transfer them electronically for a detailed tally. Big data crunching, miles of code and complex algorithms to just to count… one plus one, equals two.
It didn’t work. The causes are not fully known beyond the excuses made for the failure by “Shadow Inc,” which claimed that the data was entered and compiled but only partially, “because of a coding issue in the reporting system.” Users of the app had their own problems with it. The app had to be downloaded to the users’ phones who then had to navigate a complex system of filling out forms and inputting a series of pin numbers to access the app. There was no training on how to use it and people who called the helpline got a continuous busy signal. As a result, the counting of the votes hit a brick wall. There was no thought of a simple back up plan if the app didn’t work.
I’m sure the improvement promised by the developers was a Big Data one, “We’ll be able to break down how many left-handed, red-headed females cast ballots!” But was that really the job here? To amass reams of data for later analysis and exploitation? Or was it just to count the votes?
Some of you may have heard the term, “Rube Goldberg Machine,” Goldberg was a popular cartoonist who, from 1914 to 1964, drew complicated machines that did brutally simple things, like the “Self Operating Napkin.” So, for more than 100 years Americans have been coming up with over-complicated solutions to very simple tasks. Television advertising is full of product offers that solve simple problems in very complex ways as well, “Don’t you dare stick that two-cent Q-Tip in your ear you fool! Buy this $50 ear wax vacuum.”
Let simple things be solved in simple ways. Elections are about counting votes, and figuring out who got the most. That simple task should not take a back seat to the Big Data fetish we have going on right now where we think we can’t know anything unless we know everything.
One plus one equals two. It’s simple.