In its report released earlier this January, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration noted how an online registration tool developed by the Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Foundation that being used by Virginia and groups like Rock the Vote “highlights the way that voter information can be entered by a user in one setting and, through a simple platform, seamlessly integrated with a state’s registration list.” Now, ahead of the 2014 midterms and with an eye to 2016, OSET”s Trust the Vote Project is stepping up its efforts to expand that functionality and other election innovations across the country, at the same time that the Bipartisan Policy Center has taken up the task of more broadly implementing the commission’s recommendations as a whole throughout the states. As techPresident wrote at the time, the commission’s report highlighted how it had identified technology and data problems at the root of the “long lines” that President Obama had directed the commission to address. “We have been working on various piece of what I call the overall ecosystem…of election administration,” Gregory Miller, co-founder and chief development officer of OSET said in a recent interview. “We’ve been looking at the pieces that do not require federal certification since the federal certification model is so broken.” While OSET has also been involved in discussions about changing the certification model, the more immediate focus of the initiative, he said, has been improving the voter experience rather than ballot transactions.
The Virginia platform that is already in place aims to make the registration process as easy as buying a plane ticket, Miller said, and allows users to check if they are properly registered, look at their ballot in advance and know where their ballot place so as not end up with a provisional ballot.
OSET has also been the technology provider behind the voter registration tools used by many third party groups including Rock the Vote, Voto Latino, the NAACP and the League of the Women Voters. Those groups have recently begun adopting a function of the service that lets the groups adds a bar code to voter registration forms filled out through Rock the Vote that includes all the data a user has entered aside from their signature. When the form goes through a scanner “not only do they capture a signature for rapid reconciliation with DMV but they now get all that data instantly,” Miller said. “That innovation alone has reduced by a factor of tenfold the time it takes to get voters registered.”
Los Angeles County is interested in adopting the same platform as Virginia, Miller said, and OSET is also helping to integrate Rock the Vote capabilities with California’s online voter registration system, adding that a dozen or more states could add that functionality after an August meeting of the National Association of State Election Directors. That better integration with state databases in California and other states could help “reduce that crunch when those boxes of registration forms darken the doorstep of the registrar with ten days to go,” he said, citing stories of boxes “left sitting in hallways because they just ran out of time to process them by the deadline.”