In October 2002, the federal government passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA).
This legislation created new election administration requirements for all states and called for an upgrade of voting systems. Specifically, HAVA calls for the creation of a single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list defined, maintained, and administered at the state level that contains the name and registration information of every legally registered voter in the state.
The Government Accountability Board’s Elections Division is charged with administering transparent, fair, and efficient elections for the citizens of Wisconsin. The Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) is one of the key tools used by the Board to carry out its critical election business practices.
HAVA required all states to set up a single, uniform, centralized and computerized statewide voter registration database. The system is required to link with other State databases, including the Department of Corrections to obtain information on felons, the Department of Health Services to obtain information on deaths, and the Department of Transportation for validation of driver license and social security numbers.
SVRS contains complete voting participation history information for all registered voters since 2006. Prior to 2006, voter records were maintained by municipal clerks, but municipalities with populations of 5,000 and under were not required to keep a voter registration list. Many pre-2006 electronic voter records were converted into SVRS; however, anyone seeking to verify a person's voting history should contact the municipal clerk's office directly for records prior to 2006.
The SVRS is not only a voter registration list, but a full elections administration package.
The system is accessed by more than 1,600 users in 700 separate locations across the State. Users connect to the system using the internet. Some locations in Wisconsin do not have high-speed internet access available, in which case, the municipal clerk relies on another clerk (usually the county clerk) to perform data entry functions. The system includes several confidential fields, including driver license numbers, dates of birth, partial social security numbers and voters who are under a protective order, which must be protected by statute. Providing security for the system while allowing users to connect using the public internet is a high priority.
The system was originally a commercial product that was licensed from a vendor. The vendor began development of the system in 2003. The first version of the SVRS was released for use in 2005. In early 2008, the Board became solely responsible for the operation and maintenance of the source code, and the system has since been supported in-house at the Board.
The future of SVRS
The Government Accountability Board is planning for on-going, cost effective maintenance and support of the hardware and software while maximizing application performance.
As a result of the 2010 census, the boundary lines for election districts will be rewritten. The Board is also interested in methods, technologies and services available to assist with the upcoming redistricting initiative.
In 2009, the Board issued a Request for Information (RFI) to gather information in several areas regarding the long-term use of the SVRS. The information gained in this RFI may aid in the development of one or more Requests for Proposal (RFP) to acquire the necessary services to carry out our agency’s mission. We are looking for innovative solutions to maximize performance and cost effectiveness, to the benefit of the residents of Wisconsin.