California Begins Rollout of VoteCal, Long-Awaited Statewide Database



[Image courtesy of wikimedia]

This week, the State of California finally begins the process of implementing a true statewide voter registration database – more than 10 years in the making! – as it opens up a pilot phase of a yearlong project that will eventually lead to a new voter roll for the Golden State. From a release by the Secretary of State:

VoteCal, a state technology project that will create a single statewide voter registration database, has successfully launched the pilot phase on schedule, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced today. VoteCal will replace the existing 58 county voter registration databases throughout the state.  Sacramento County and Orange County are the first to deploy VoteCal.  Successful deployment of VoteCal is an essential step in modernizing elections in California.

Secretary Padilla joined Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, as pilot implementation of VoteCal went live today in Orange County. 

VoteCal’s many functions will improve service to the voters of California by: 

+ Providing a publicly available website which will allow voters to register online, check the status of their ballot, and find their polling place.
+ Connecting the Secretary of State’s database to all 58 county elections offices to improve the voter registration process.
+ Giving voters the ability to see if their vote-by-mail or provisional ballot was counted by their county elections official and, if it was not, why not.
+ Providing a single, official statewide database of voter registration information.

The remaining counties have been grouped into a series of “waves” to begin implementing VoteCal.  Monthly wave deployments will occur from October 2015 to March 2016. After VoteCal is deployed in all counties and the Secretary of State has validated that VoteCal is working properly, VoteCal will be declared the official system of record for voter registration in California. This is expected to occur in June 2016. 

“I am proud to report that we have launched VoteCal in our first two pilot counties on schedule,” Secretary Padilla said. “I thank our staff and the elections officials in our pilot counties for their tireless efforts to keep this project on track.” 

“VoteCal will help counties more efficiently and accurately maintain voter rolls. Additionally, voters will be able to register to vote, find a polling site, and check the status of their vote-by-mail or provisional ballot on-line. VoteCal is a big step forward in modernizing election administration in California, and I am excited that Orange County is one of the first counties to implement the new system,” Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said. 

Here’s a more detailed schedule from the VoteCal website (NOTE that DFM and DIMS are the two election management system vendors, who have been working closely with the state on VoteCal):

This isn’t just a technical undertaking; VoteCal is of crucial importance to numerous enacted policy changes in California, including Election Day registration – plus the desired switch to a Colorado-style “ballot delivery” model and an Oregon-style automatic registration system. VoteCal is also eagerly awaited by numerous voter service organizations who believe it will help the state and local election offices conduct better outreach to voters with disabilities or with limited English proficiency.

But it still has to work – and the timeline is aggressive, with most counties slated to use the new system for the first time in a real election either in the state’s June 2016 presidential preference primary or the general election in November. The next several months will be important to watch to see if California can finally get across the finish line.

It’s safe to say you cannot oversell the importance of VoteCal to the State of California. This is a big project, a big deal and a big story well worth watching.

Stay tuned.

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