After the results from the app are immediately transmitted to the party’s headquarters, a team of officials there will review them to look for possible outlier results. Each official will have a set of historical results and models that will help identify any result that looks suspicious; if a precinct has traditionally had a turnout of roughly 50 percent and results come in showing 98 percent, the team will be able to investigate.
“We knew that technology gave us some opportunities in this process, but with those opportunities came different challenges,” said Troy Price, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. He said that the preference cards were a “clear way of double-checking and verifying results” and noted that the level of data preparation was more extensive than in recent years.
“We have been very diligent about doing our modeling and figuring out exactly what projected turnout could be at different levels,” Mr. Price said. “So we’ll be able to see if things look wildly incongruent from what we would expect.”
In November, Iowa’s Democratic and Republican Parties teamed up with the Defending Digital Democracy Project at Harvard to run a drill of worst-case scenarios. The event, led by Robby Mook, the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Eric Rosenbach, a former chief of staff at the Pentagon, featured a fire drill of sorts, designed by future Defense Department officers.
“We ran them through the ringer and pushed them really hard,” Mr. Mook said. “Some were much better at managing technical issues, and some were better managing information operations and disinformation, misinformation and communicating with the public. So I think they really learned from each other, and they created some best practices for each other.”
Evidence that officials in Iowa were taking outside threats seriously emerged nearly a year ago, when a plan for remote caucusing was quickly scuttled because of security concerns.
Though caucuses are inherently more secure as a result of their in-person structure, the decentralized nature presents an unusual challenge. Iowa, a state of three million people, has more than 1,700 precincts, and the chairs who run the caucuses are all volunteers. This year, there has been a more proactive and intensive training program, both on the new app and the new reporting process, led by the Iowa Democratic Party.