Officals look to improve Vermont's elections IT systems
MONETPELIER -- Condos announced Thursday to the House Appropriations Committee that Connecticut-based PCC Technology Group has been hired to overhaul the website and IT systems for his office.
The project will create a campaign finance reporting system and rebuild the state's voter registration checklist functionalities, absentee ballot tracking, election management and lobbyist disclosure information. The new system will make it possible for candidates to submit campaign finance reports online so that data is made more readily available to the media and the public. Campaign finance information is now only available in PDF format.
"The most important thing from my standpoint," Condos said in a Friday interview, "is this will improve the security, integrity and transparency of our elections process. It will provide more and better information to everyone involved."
The state's campaign finance law mandates a new reporting system by January 2015, but elections and campaign finance division director Will Senning hopes lawmakers will be able to start testing it sooner -- possibly by this summer 2014. The remainder of the applications are projected to go live by July 2015.
The project is one part of a total information system overhaul at the Secretary of State's office. In addition to the office's website, the divisions for corporations and professional regulation have already undergone makeovers. After the elections work, electronic records for the state archives will be overhauled.
In the new system, elections information will be available online in real-time. A new user interface will integrate data across all facets of the elections system.
Condos said the investments -- mostly paid through fees and federal grants -- enhance his ability to deliver on policy priorities, legislative requests and public expectations. Senning pointed to campaign finance as case in point.
"You can manipulate (campaign contribution limits) all you like," Senning said, "but that is only given meaning if the people of Vermont are given access to that information."
Information about lobbyists and their clients also will be searchable. Currently, a viewer must pull up individual lobbyist reports in PDF format.
Voter registration checklists also will be connected to the rest of the elections databases.
Voters can check their own voter registration status to see if it is current. In addition, the voter will be able to see the candidates running for office in her district and see where the polling place is located.
Some tasks that now must be completed manually -- by both voters and government staff -- will be automated.
Such functions include updates to the voter registration rolls: If a person registers to vote in a new town, the town clerk managing the previous registration will be automatically notified.
Condos and his staff were not able to confirm Friday whether the statewide voter registration checklist would be searchable online. Condos noted that townwide voter checklist are public records, and requests can be made to his office for the statewide list, provided the information won't be used for commercial purposes.
He also underscored the improved efficiency a new system will bring both for his office and for the 246 municipal clerks around the state. Federally required election results are now time consuming for all parties, but will be streamlined once the aging elections databases are remade.
The databases will include some personal identifying information, such as Social Security numbers. IT manager Steve Mattera said Vermont's elections systems will undergo rigorous independent security assessment to prevent hacking.
Staff said six bidders responded to a request for proposals that was more than a year in the making. One of those companies was based in Vermont, but ultimately PCC -- the same company that is completing the secretary's corporations overhaul -- was selected.
The elections IT project is 70 percent funded by a federal grant from the Help America Vote Act.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.