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State Working Out Voter Registration Computer Kinks

by Christine Stuart | Oct 15, 2012 12:55pm
(2) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2012, Election Policy

Christine Stuart file photo

Last week, the Centralized Voter Registration system — a computer program that contains the names, addresses and party affiliation of all registered voters in the state — failed a stress test.

Another test was conducted on Sunday and preliminary reports from the Secretary of the State’s office indicated that things went well.

But the real test will come on Thursday when 100 registrars throughout the state will try to log onto the system at the same time and print out their voter lists or do other pre-election tasks.

Mark Raymond, the state’s chief information officer, said last week that they were continuing to “fine tune” the system and believe that they would be able to ensure that the database is accessible in the lead-up to the Nov. 6 election.

The deadline to register by mail is Oct. 23, but you can register in person until Oct. 30.

Av Harris, spokesman for the Secretary of the State’s office, said that everybody tends to log in to the system in October during the last part of the election cycle. The stress test failed because there were extensive delays for registrars, but Harris said the office is coming up with a backup plan if the server issues aren’t resolved soon.

He said they’re coming up with a schedule which would stagger access to the database if problems persist.

The Centralized Voter Registration is used by all the registrars in the state to update voter information and to print out voter lists for their local polling places.

Raymond said the database for the Secretary of the State’s office was moved over to the state’s mainframe in May 2011, where it was kept with data from the departments of Motor Vehicles, Social Services, Children and Families, State Police, Correction, Retirement and several others.

However, in order to make sure the database is working properly, the Centralized Voter Registration database is being moved off the mainframe to a dedicated server.

“We are looking to add additional processing capacity to the servers to handle the temporary high spike in work load,” Raymond said last week. “We are pursuing different architectural options.”

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero expressed concern over the failure and was surprised to learn so many state agencies were on one mainframe server.

“It’s a serious problem when a 100 town test fails,” Cafero said last week. “Voters want to have confidence in the system and this doesn’t give anyone a level of comfort.”

Cafero expressed concern over voter fraud, which he speculated could happen if the registrars don’t have the proper voting lists at their polling places.

“I don’t know if there’s a billboard big enough to explain all of this,” he quipped.

Cafero was referring to the $7,500 Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office spent to purchase billboard space to help make sure voters knew to vote on Nov. 6th.

It’s not the first time the Centralized Voter Registration system failed.

Days before the presidential primary in February 2008, the system crashed as local registrars attempted to register thousands of new voters.

The system was initially thought to be a server issues, but ended up being a bandwidth issue and caused the state to fund the replacement of all the routers. A team of individuals spent 1,371 hours working on the problems back in 2008 and they had months before the election to figure out the problems.

At the time, then Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz stressed to then Gov. M. Jodi Rell that the system “is a critical tool for Registrars of Voters in ensuring the accuracy of enrollment lists and in preventing voter fraud.”

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(2) Comments

posted by: JamesBronsdon | October 15, 2012  1:17pm

Seems like exactly the sort of function you would want out-sourced to the private sector.  Not that the private sector is perfect, but compared to the public sector you’ve got to think the job would be done at much less cost with much greater efficiency.  Moreover, the idea that the executive branch, which is always in fealty to one party or another, is in charge of this just doesn’t look right.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | October 17, 2012  8:46am

GoatBoyPHD

A 100-person load?  This is childish.

1,371 hours? “Can’t DOIT” strikes again.