Secretary of State’s office to update elections software

Sharon Fisher//June 20, 2018

Secretary of State’s office to update elections software

Sharon Fisher//June 20, 2018

photo of statehouse
The Idaho Secretary of State’s office has issued a request for proposal to update elections software.

The Secretary of State’s office has issued requests for proposals for a new system to manage voter registration and elections, campaign financing, and lobbyist reporting, with the goal of having at least the elections reporting portion up by the November election.

The RFP was posted on the Secretary of State’s website on June 15 and has a deadline of July 10 at 4 pm. Proposals are scheduled to be awarded by July 17, with a contract start date of August 1 and the election night returns component working no later than Oct. 1.

The move is part of a modernization process that began when Lawerence Denney took office as secretary of state in 2015, beginning with the corporate filing system in 2016, said Chad Houck, deputy secretary of state, in Boise.

The Idaho Legislature appropriated $1.2 million this year toward the process, but shortly after the legislative session ended, the office got a surprise, Houck said. Some of the funds originally appropriated for the Help America Vote Act in 2002 had never been released, and releasing those funds was part the Consolidated Appropriations Act by Congress. So the office got an extra $3.2 million for infrastructure, cybersecurity, and elections security training. “It doesn’t change the plans, but it allows us to expand, which is exciting,” he said.

The office wants to update the existing system because it is more than 10 years old. In particular, the office wants to be prepared for redistricting in 2022, which is why geographic information systems software is a big component, Houck said. “Our addressing systems are street-based, which makes it difficult when you look at redistricting,” he said. “It’s tremendously more efficient for the counties.” Cybersecurity to protect the system from outside meddling is also a major component, he added.

The system calls for three major functionality “buckets,” which could all be done by a single vendor or by individual vendors, Houck said.

  • The election system itself, including election night reporting, election management, ballot creation, online voter registration, and candidate management to ensure candidates are eligible to run
  • Lobbyist registration, including their employers and expenses
  • Campaign finance and contributions, with a searchable database, ad hoc queries, and standardized reports

Unlike the existing systems, some of which were written in-house, the office is looking for configurable off-the-shelf solutions, Houck said. So far, the office has seen demonstrations from five vendors:

  • BPro Inc.
  • CRI Advantage
  • PCC Technologies, which bid for the corporate RFP but didn’t win
  • Tecuity, which won the corporate RFP, and demonstrated its lobbyist element
  • Tenex Software Solutions, an elections solutions company

The result should be an improvement in online voter registration and voting information, Houck said. “There will be new interfaces for that, and a more intuitive process,” he said. Election night reporting should be more rapid, but election officials will always choose accuracy over speed, he said. On the campaign finance side, there will be more information that will be easier to get to, rather than having to compare two PDFs side-by-side, he said.

photo of elizabeth criner
Elizabeth Criner

People who will be using the software said they were looking forward to a newer, more modern system. “The Secretary of State’s office should have a more up-to-date system with more functionality,” said Elizabeth Criner, managing partner with Boise lobbying firm Veritas Advisors. She also volunteers as the president of Idaho Legislative Advisors, a nonprofit organization of Idaho lobbyists, and said she testified in favor of the proposal during the legislative session. The existing form isn’t complex, but lacks some functionality, she said.

One of the major issues for Bonneville County is security, said Brenda Prudent, elections supervisor, in Idaho Falls. “I know that is one thing that is a big concern not only to the state and county, but to the public, as well as how it performs the functions,” she said.