CTNJ file photo
Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz (CTNJ file photo)

A week after the presidential primary, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz wrote
this letter to Gov. M. Jodi Rell alerting her to the problems with the Centralized Voter Registration System, a computer program that contains the names, addresses and party affiliation of all registered voters in the state.

“The system crashed several times on the day before the Primary and has not yet been completely restored,” Bysiewicz wrote in a Feb. 14 letter to Rell. The system “is a critical tool for Registrars of Voters in ensuring the accuracy of enrollment lists and in preventing voter fraud.”

In the days leading up to the primary, local registrars of voters were unable to enter voter information into the system because the software application and network continued to fail.

In her letter to Rell, Bysiewicz said the state’s Department of Information Technology is not making fixing the system a priority and fears if nothing is done the system may go down again in November.

The Department of Information Technology took exception to Bysiewicz’s characterization of the issue.

In a letterMonday, Diane Wallace, Chief Information Officer for DOIT, said “I read your letter as an effort to deflect blame for any potential problems with the Centralized Voter Registration System in November to DOIT, despite the fact that you have been aware of the problems with this system for years.”

Wallace points out that the system was developed by private consultants “hired by the Secretary of State’s office,” and is a system that “has a well-known history of sub-par performance and requires more than the seasonal and sporadic attention afforded to it by your office.”

“There are application issues that create a ‘white screen’ when voters are registered. There are network capacity issues during peak processing times. There are also application throughput capacity limitations,” Wallace wrote. In conclusion Wallace wrote that “we are gravely concerns that enhancements may not be sufficient to address the performance issues by the November elections.”

In the letter Wallace suggested Bysiewicz “consider replacing this application with one that meets the State’s current and future business requirements.”

Rell said Wednesday morning after a speech to the business community that DOIT has made fixing the system a “priority,” but continues to express concerns about the vendor that created the program. “DOIT has been there and will continue to be there,” Rell said.

Since these letters were exchanged the Secretary of State’s office, DOIT, and the vendor PCC Technology Group, have had at least two conversations about what needs to be done to improve the system.

Deputy Secretary Lesley Mara said Wednesday that she would love to have a project plan for the system upgrade to share with the local registrars, so next time the system goes down or is too slow she can tell them when it will be working properly. At the moment she said she just has to reassure them it will improve.

In an interview Wednesday Bysiewicz said that this needs to be a priority for the state, which is why she involved Rell in the conversation. “Is is too much to ask for our servers to work?” Bysiewicz said. She said no one is suggesting DOIT has failed to give her office its time, but with 90 percent voter turnout expected in November her agency needs to be put at the top of the project list.

Mara said her understanding is that when the system is taxed by capacity, i.e. too many local registrars are inputing voter information into the computer, the program should be using two servers at DOIT headquarters in East Hartford, but for some reason the application only reaches one server and then pushes it overcapacity until it crashes.

The good news is nobody should be disenfranchised at the polls in Novemeber since provisional and presidential ballots will be available to voters. Bysiewicz said even if the poll worker can’t find a voters name on a list because it hasn’t been entered into the system yet, they will still be able to vote by provisional ballot.

Click hereto read Bysiewicz’s response to Wallace’s letter.