MISDIRECTED: WA SoS Moves To Assist Voters After Health Exchange Registrations Go Awry

[Image via oneonethreeeight]

The office of Washington’s Secretary of State is rushing to assist about 1,000 voters whose registrations were not properly delivered after they registered through the state’s health exchange. The Seattle Times has more:

Washington officials are scrambling to notify roughly 1,000 people to check their voter registration status ahead of Tuesday’s election, after discovering a glitch last week that prevented the proper transfer of some new voter information.

The issue occurred with potential voters registering at Washington’s health plan website, which provides an option to register when people sign up for health or dental coverage. That’s a new program available this year — along with same-day voter registration — courtesy of legislation lawmakers approved in 2018.

The problem, discovered on Wednesday, was publicly announced Friday night once officials said they had determined how many people were affected.

It was the SoS’ office itself that discovered the issue – which appears to have been the result of a temporary workaround that was never undone:

During a regular audit of voter information, the Secretary of State’s Office saw that voter-registration numbers from the health plan looked a little off, according to Assistant Secretary of State Mark Neary.

Officials say they believe the problem started when the Washington Health Benefit Exchange underwent a system upgrade in August. At that time, health officials changed the destination at the Secretary of State’s Office for where they were sending new voter registrations as a precaution for the upgrade.

After the upgrade, that destination wasn’t changed back. So information was getting transmitted to the Secretary of State’s Office – but to the wrong account.

State health officials fixed the problem by Thursday evening, according to Neary.

State exchange officials assured voters their information was still private:

Michael Marchand, spokesman for the Health Benefit Exchange, which runs the health plan website, said no personal information was compromised.

“None of the data ever left a safe and secure environment,” Marchand said. “It’s kind of like if you put a file in the wrong file cabinet.”

Officials at the Health Benefit Exchange have been calling and emailing people potentially affected through the weekend so they can check their voter status, he added.

Some affected voters have already been reached, and the effort to get ballots to all voters will continue:

Election officials were able to mail out roughly 300 ballots Friday to some of those impacted, according to Neary.

Anyone unsure of their voter status should check it at VoteWA.gov, or contact their county elections office.

The glitch was discovered just days before Tuesday’s election. Ballots were mailed to voters in mid-October.

This story is yet another example of both the the promise and peril of new avenues for voter registration; while it is increasingly popular to bring registration to many new places as part of other transactions (like health care), it’s important to make sure that completed registrations make it back to the one place that matters: the election office. Kudos to the Secretary of State for spotting the issue and for moving quickly to ensure it doesn’t affect voters who want to cast ballots in this year’s election. Stay tuned …

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