Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Hawaii seems stuck in computer dark ages, can’t manage to put voter registration on-line
by Larry Geller
House Bill 545 requires electronic voter registration on the Office of Elections website by January 1, 2014. The Governor objects because the estimated cost is $2.5 million, but no appropriation is provided.
Where did that $2.5 million come from? It sounds high by a factor of 10 to 20, maybe more.
On-line voter registration should be a piece of cake to program, and should save the state money on the principle that any time data entry can be pushed down to the end user, state employees don’t have to do the keying-in.
That principle is as old as data processing itself. And tools to fill out forms on-line are as old as the Web, and in use on other Hawaii government web sites. People fill out forms on the Web every day to order things from on-line vendors or to reserve seats at events, and so forth.
How easy is on-line voter registration to program? It’s just a bunch of questions to be answered, and it’s already been done.
You can try it yourself. Go to this Rock the Vote web page and pretend you haven’t registered to vote yet. Or if it’s true that you’re not registered, go ahead and register! Since Hawaii has no on-line system (and won’t any time soon if the Governor vetoes that bill), the program will generate a mail-in form for you. It knows you’re in Hawaii from your zip code.
Clearly, what is needed is just to skip the paper form and put the data directly into the Office of Elections computer. What could cost $2.5 million?
A more advanced program might perform certain checks on the input data to reduce errors or to let applicants know that they are already registered, for example, and ask if this might be a change of address or other information.
This is not rocket science, Governor, and how will we demonstrate our technical expertise to APEC 2011 delegates if the truth is we don’t have any?
I believe the issue for the governor is not to upset the apple cart. Inefficiencies in government equate to jobs; streamlining and cost efficient management does not. He would rather keep people employed in out dated positions, pay them less and call it sacrifice.