Iowa Caucuses Launch Inaugural Polling Apps with Xamarin
As the 2016 election continues to heat up, we’re putting a spotlight on where it all began: the Iowa Caucuses. The February 1, 2016 Iowa Caucus kicked off the US Presidential nominations, and early poll results traditionally play a huge role in the Republican and Democratic Parties’ candidate selection. This year, both parties partnered with Microsoft and InterKnowlogy, a Microsoft Gold Partner, to create Xamarin-based mobile apps, boosting the accuracy and security of the Caucus, as well as making it easier for precinct voters to cast their ballots.
During the 2012 Iowa Caucuses, the Republican Party incorrectly reported its winning candidate, and the complex caucus voting rules and reporting process made the true outcome almost impossible to determine. The touchtone-phone based system was prone to error, most notably precincts submitting duplicate entries that skewed results.
Determined to avoid issues and increase public confidence in election results, both Parties realized mobile technologies offered the best solution, but delivering apps that met the standards required for such an important event weren’t without challenges.
The Iowa Caucus Apps’ criteria, at a glance:
- As consumer-facing apps, both Parties needed phone and tablet versions to distribute via all major public app stores, resulting in 12 apps across Android, iOS, and Windows.
- Security and fidelity were a must, especially user authentication. While the app was publicly available, only registered Caucus Precinct Chairs were granted access to the reporting functionality. Timing was also important: Precinct Chairs needed to access reporting immediately when voting opened, but not a moment beforehand. To validate user identity, InterKnowlogy incorporated two-factor authentication.
- Since Iowa Caucus participants cover all demographics, including less tech-savvy citizens, the apps needed to be highly intuitive and responsive, requiring little training and eliminating the ability to mistakenly report information.
- The apps needed to handle complex logic, calculate and validate results according to party rules, catch invalid entries, and include prompts for conditional voting processes. Before results were submitted and announced to the public, they needed to be validated with any anomalies flagged for analysis.
After a diligent requirements gathering and user experience design process, the InterKnowlogy team faced an extremely aggressive four month timeline. However, using Xamarin, Microsoft Azure, and their deep Microsoft expertise, they successfully delivered apps across all platforms with just five .NET developers dedicated to the project. On Caucus day in Des Moines, the final apps captured 90% of caucus results within three hours in a secure, accurate, and trusted manner.