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How Nevada's caucus results will be reported — with some help from Google

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By Ben Popken  with NBC News Politics
Image: Nevada Caucus volunteers receive training for recording caucus resul
Nevada Caucus volunteers receive training for recording caucus results in Las Vegas on Feb. 20, 2020.   -   Copyright  Win McNamee Getty Images

If all goes according to plan Saturday, the reporting of Nevada's Democratic caucuses will be nothing like Iowa's.

Afteran app contributed to widespread problems with Iowa's caucus reporting, Nevada Democrats scrapped plans to use similar apps made by the same developer. They've since turned to a homebrewed solution.

The counts and delegates will be calculated and assigned two ways: a paper "Math Poster" worksheet hung on the wall at the precinct locations, and an off-the-shelf Google Forms app loaded onto an iPad provided by the state party, according to publicly available caucus training slides prepared by the party. The party calls the Google system the "Caucus Calculator."

Both the calculator system and the poster will be used to log caucusgoers and help calculate a candidate's viability at each location. Each candidate must meet a precinct-specific minimum threshold of support to be considered viable.

After the result computations are complete, the precinct chairs will be required to first report them by calling a hotline and providing a secret passphrase found in their paperwork.

Then, they must text a photo of the reporting sheet to the Nevada Democratic Party and hand in the physical copies of their reporting sheets.

As an additional recording measure, the site leads will use an iPad to take a picture of each reporting sheet.

The Google system will not be used to transmit results to the party. It is solely used to assist in calculations.

Results from the early voting held Feb. 15-18, in which votes were cast using hand-marked "Scantron"-style bubble sheets, will be passed along to the precinct leaders through the "Calculator" and also provided on paper. Early voters were asked to name their top choice and at least two others, which will be used to realign their votes if their preferred candidates do not reach viability.

The Nevada State Democratic Party will tabulate the final results and publish three sets of data: raw votes from the first alignment, raw votes from the final alignment and a county delegate result.

Results will be available on the day of the caucuses on a public website maintained by the party, with periodic updates.

Nevada Democrats said they're confident in their new process and received feedback on it from independent security experts, the Democratic National Committee, the Department of Homeland Security and Google.

"We understand just how important it is that we get this right and protect the integrity of Nevadans' votes. We are confident in our backup plans and redundancies," Alana Mounce, executive director of the Nevada State Democratic Party, said in a memo released Feb. 13.

Mounce wrote in a new memo released Friday that per DNC requirements, it had created a standardized process for any candidate to request a recount. If the party finds any error in the calculations, it will correct the number of awarded delegates.

The DNC affirmed its support for successful caucuses in Nevada and said it was assisting in those efforts in a variety of ways.

"Nevada Democrats have learned important lessons from Iowa, and we're confident they're implementing these best practices into their preparations. We've deployed staff to help them across the board, from technical assistance to volunteer recruitment," Xochitl Hinojosa, DNC communications director, wrote in an email.