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Microsoft could be the star of the Iowa caucuses

Why Microsoft contributed an application and cloud service to the Iowa caucuses for free.

Microsoft cloud services Iowa caucuses voting results
Credit: iStockphoto

Electronic voting has been a pretty dismal failure in the last few election cycles, so all eyes will be on Microsoft tonight as its new custom app and cloud services will be the means by which local officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties will report vote tallies in real-time.

Both of the parties in Iowa have expressed strong confidence in Microsoft, aside from some typical corporate hostility by the Bernie Sanders campaign early last week. The Hill reports both sides have done dry runs and reported no errors. Both Sanders and front-runner Hillary Clinton have created their own backup reporting systems.

"Under the new system, each Iowa political party will have their own app available on all mobile and PC platforms, which will support the party's unique caucus voting process," Dan'l Lewin, Microsoft's corporate vice president of technology and civic engagement, wrote in a blog post. "The reporting apps may be used in every precinct in Iowa by both parties. The results will be securely stored and managed in Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform."

Under the new system, both parties will have their own apps on all mobile and PC platforms, which will support the party's unique caucus voting process. The reporting apps are to be used in every precinct in Iowa, and results will be stored and managed in Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform.

The Microsoft apps replace a phone reporting system used in 2008 and 2012 that required precincts to report their results through a touchtone keypad. The Microsoft app allows people entering results to double check and correct their entries – something the phone system didn't do – and has a means to flag anomalies.

The Microsoft partnership began more than a year ago, when the company's civic engagement team reached out to the Iowa state parties. Last June, it was announced that Microsoft would create a pair of apps for each party to help count the votes in the nearly 1,700 precincts on caucus night. Microsoft is also sponsoring the press center in Iowa for the caucuses.

Pete D'Alessandro, the head of the Sanders operation in Iowa, showed he knows as much about business as Senator Sanders when he questioned Microsoft's motivations.

"You'd have to ask yourself why they'd want to give something like that away for free," he's quoted as saying in The Hill.

Gee, I dunno, why else would Microsoft do something that has generated a fair amount of coverage already and will ensure its Microsoft logos will be seen for hours on end on the big television networks, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC that night as results come in?

This is a chance for Microsoft to shine where other electronic voting systems have failed dismally (Example 1, 2, 3, 4). It has always amazed me that these major electronics vendors can't do a simple +1 addition while I have never once experienced a problem with ATMs in more than 30 years. If Microsoft pulls off the hat trick where everyone else failed, they get the glory and the business, and Amazon and Google are left out in the cold.

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