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Rhode Island is the latest state to confront issues with voter registration data collected from the state motor vehicle agency, and the Secretary of State is asking the state election board to act in time to resolve issues related to 5,000 or more voters in the state’s September primary. The Providence Journal has more:
As a result of an “IT” snafu in the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles’ automatic-voter-registration system, the new and newly-updated records of at least 5,000 potential primary day voters got stuck in limbo.
Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea is asking the state Board of Elections to take emergency steps at its next meeting on Wednesday to rectify the situation.
More specifically, she is asking the state board to give the go-ahead for elections officials in all 39 cities and towns to add at least 1,400 new voters to their local rolls before the Sept. 12 primary, and change their own records to reflect changes — such as a move to a new address — of another 3,600 previously registered voters who did business with the DMV in the last year.
The issue appears to be a result of a faulty cross walk of data between systems:
If all of this worked as it was supposed to work, Joseph Graziano, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said the information would have been automatically conveyed from the “RI.gov″ website, run by NIC Inc., to the state’s central voter registration system. As to why that did not happen, Graziano said it appeared that “a few of the fields″ were missing from the computer program.
“It is now clear that this matter requires the Board’s immediate attention,″ Gorbea wrote a host of other state officials, including the members of the elections board, after the snafu came to light. Her summary:
“On Saturday, August 18, 2018, Norelys Consuegra from the Rl Department of State Elections Division contacted Charles Hollis of the DMV regarding the transmission of a specific voter registration record. On Saturday, August 25, 2018 we were notified by Department of Revenue Director Mark Furcolo that some records linked to the DMV online license renewals may not have been properly transmitted to the CVRS due to an issue with the DMV’s IT vendor, RI.gov.
“On Monday, August 27, 2018, the Department of Revenue provided a file of approximately 16,000 records to our office for review. We forwarded the records to the Department of State’s vendor, PCC Technology, Inc. — which handles our CVRS, So PCC could identify how many records were not currently in the CVRS and how many existing records had not been updated accordingly.”
“Our staff is working with all parties to ensure that all voter records are accurate and up to date, and to ensure that the transmission of data from the DMV into the CVRS is accurate and properly audited.”
“Due to time constraints, we are requesting the local boards of canvassers process the records immediately to ensure voter records are properly loaded onto the e-poll books ahead of the September 12 primaries,″ she wrote.
A DMV spokesperson hastened to note that the issue isn’t with his agency but with the go-between entity transferring data between the systems:
DMV spokesman Paul Grimaldi drew this distinction: “There is no problem with the DMV system. There is an issue with http://RI.gov, a third-party software platform developed and operated by an outside vendor — NIC…[which] processes all online transactions for the state, including DMV transactions…There is no indication of any problems with transactions completed at the DMV branches or AAA offices.”
“NIC recorded the data submitted online, but certain fields we’re not appropriately included in the transfer by NIC to the Secretary of State’s office…The Secretary of State asked the DMV to assist and we have provided them with all archived records of those transactions…The issue with NIC was resolved within 24 hours of notification.”
One member of the state board isn’t happy about the problem and is calling on DMV to get its house in order:
After the long-running computer glitch came to light on Friday, Stephen Erickson, the vice-chairman of the state elections board, issued a statement stressing the severity of what happened.
“This is a major disaster that was averted because an alert person in the SOS office noticed a discrepancy, followed up on it, and the SOS and BOE worked together to fix the problem,” he said.
But “elections are too important to be handled in such a sloppy manner. We will never know if people were denied mail ballots, voted from the wrong address, or had the wrong party affiliation on their record at the time of a mail ballot. This kind of incompetence is not acceptable,” he said.
“The DMV should have been on top of this, making sure that the vendor they use was appropriately transferring data,” Erickson said. “I am sure there will be balls tossed between the agency and the vendor, but the bottom line is that no one at the DMV or the vendor was looking out to ensure the integrity of the voter lists.”
“I would say that the DMV had a duty to ensure, through periodic audits and testing that the vendor was transmitting all data to appropriate agencies,″ Erickson said.
Noting that the Board of Elections and Secretary of State’s office “get registrations from a variety of sources — human service agencies, nonprofits, and so forth, and there has never been a problem … . It appears that there is a need for an outside audit of the DMV process, the information transfer process, and the training that is provided to workers to ensure that they understand the need for this information to be transmitted on a timely basis.
This isn’t the first time a state has confronted problems related to inter-agency data transfers of voter registration data. The simple truth is that while voters can benefit from programs that link different state agencies together to improve access to the voter rolls, those programs are only as good as the quality of the link – and the constant attention to maintaining the flow of timely and accurate data. Hopefully, those 5,000 voters will get their issues resolved before next week – and DMV and other entities can restore the flow of data so that these issues don’t occur again.
Stay tuned …