- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - It won’t be until after the 2016 general election that a revamped, more modern election management and voter registration system is fully implemented in New Mexico, according to the state’s top election officials.

The secretary of state’s office briefed lawmakers on its progress during a meeting this week in Albuquerque.

The agency already has updated the candidate filing system and streamlined the reporting of election results, but work has yet to start on revamping voter registration.

Kari Fresquez, head of the elections bureau and the agency’s chief technology officer, said creating a one-stop shop for voters and integrating the numerous separate systems used by county clerks across the state marks the biggest step in the modernization process.

“It’s just a bit of a risk to implement a system before a big election, so we’re going to take the cautious path,” she said. “We will be working on it this year and next year, but we won’t really realize the benefits of it until after the presidential general election.”

The goal is to make it easier for voters to access and update their information online, look up election dates, find polling places and read sample ballots. For clerks, the system will enable them to better manage voter files, validate addresses and share information with the secretary of state’s office.

Aside from the challenges of finding ways to transfer information between the different systems currently used by the county clerks, election officials said many of the processes are manual and require a lot of time and money.

The idea to overhaul the election management system goes back a few years. An assessment done by Fresquez when she was hired by then-newly elected Secretary of State Dianna Duran in 2011 validated concerns about the agency’s technology that were first raised by analysts in 2009.

Agency officials told lawmakers last year that the mismanagement and underfunding of information technology that had occurred for so many years put the office “in a state of crisis” and that it was unlikely the office could recover if it had a system failure.

The Legislature answered with a series of special appropriations and capital outlay funds to fix some of the issues - from replacing failing servers and improving data storage to implementing security patches. Work on the candidate filing system, the process for creating ballots and the reporting of election results followed.

The improvements, Fresquez told lawmakers, resulted in a clean report from independent state canvassing auditors after the 2014 election, marking a first in the agency’s history.

Earlier this year, the Legislature approved $1.4 million for the secretary of state’s office to finish the overhaul.

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, said the IT advancements are exciting given that the current system was developed years ago when people were using checks instead of paying online and it was acceptable to write Social Security numbers on those checks.

Ivey-Soto and others asked about security. Fresquez said there have been no reports of fraud in those states that use similar voter registration systems, and any sensitive information will be masked and encrypted.

The secretary of state’s office plans to continue with mock elections and training sessions for clerks to ensure the changes are seamless.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide