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Nevada Democrats to caucus workers: "Don't make early dinner plans"

Nevada hopes to avoid another caucus debacle

An organizer for the Nevada Democratic Party offered advice to caucus workers and volunteers during a training call on Tuesday: "Don't make early dinner plans in case things go a bit longer." The meeting was billed as a "Caucus Refresher Session" webinar for workers, though the registration link was accessible to the public. 

During the training session, which CBS News joined, the trainer shared slides detailing the process for tabulating votes on an iPad and submitting results through a phone line. "Never go home and try to mail it," the trainer advised. "We need these results ASAP." 

A 177-page presentation included background information about the Nevada caucuses, election-day protocols for precinct workers, and instructions about how to use the caucus calculator, the tool precinct leaders will use to tabulate and report local caucus results.

The caucus calculator tool was developed rapidly to replace Shadow, the mobile app widely blamed for causing problems during the Iowa caucuses. A spokesperson for the Nevada Democratic Party would not disclose the developers who built the tool but told CBS News that "security experts" had examined and approved it.

The Nevada Democratic Party insists the caucus calculator is not an "app."  Instead, a party official explained to CBS News that the caucus calculator is "off the shelf technology" — a bookmarked Google Doc that precinct officials will log into at caucus locations on party-purchased iPads equipped with wi-fi and 4G cellular connectivity. That could help avoid a problem that occurred in Iowa, where some workers were unable to download the Shadow app. 

The party official described the process as "incredibly low tech and simple." Precinct leaders will use the iPads to tabulate votes but will report the results of each caucus through a phone number the party will distribute securely on election day. Each vote will have a paper backup, the official said. 

The Caucus Express training guide provides instructions on how to use the calculator. For example, step one asks users to "Open the Caucus Calculator on your iPad" and to "Hold the iPad horizontally" before logging in to the calculator. Each of the remaining 13 steps highlights how to use the Caucus Math Poster, a formula used by the party to count participants and assign voter preferences. 

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A slide of the Nevada caucus calculator. Nevada Democratic Party

The Nevada Democratic Party spokesperson brushed off CBS News' security questions about the use of Google Docs on an iPad and stated that the state party had consulted with the DNC and Department of Homeland Security on election security "best practices." 

The state party spokesperson said the caucus calculator Google Doc was devised after working with a "group of independent cybersecurity and tech experts," including advisors from Google, the consultancy group DigiDems, and "private cybersecurity firms." The spokesperson declined to share specifics about which firms advised using Google Docs, but reiterated that "no voter data will be transmitted from iPads."

Seth Morrison, a Nevada precinct site leader, is encouraged that the Nevada Democratic Party invested resources into training, but told CBS News he had concerns that "the very dedicated people doing the training are not skilled educators. They tend to rush through the slides, don't allow time for questions and discussion, and many of us have found it hard to absorb such a complex process."

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