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) was created in 2006 as a key tools used by the Board to carry out its critical election business practices. In early 2016, SVRS was replaced by WisVote, which has improved usability and functionality and lower costs. Learn more about WisVote here.
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.
WisVote 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 WisVote; however, anyone seeking to verify a person's voting history should contact the municipal clerk's office directly for records prior to 2006.
WisVote 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.
In recent years, the G.A.B. has established an internal IT development team to maintain and improve the SVRS system. The IT team began using Microsoft Dynamics CRM — a customer relationship management software, to develop new IT functionalities instead of modifying SVRS directly. Initially used primarily by the private sector, Dynamics CRM has been adopted for use by public agencies to manage data and workflow processes. Through Dynamics CRM, the G.A.B. was able to create a new provisional ballot tracking system in order to comply with the Photo ID law in 2012. Dynamics CRM was also used to produce printable felon lists required in polling places and for the post-election Voter Felon Audit.
After the successful use of Dynamics CRM for several SVRS projects, the G.A.B. determined that it should rewrite the entire SVRS system using this software application. During 2013 and 2014, staff worked to conceptualize how SVRS could be improved by developing it in Dynamics CRM. Actual development of the new system in Dynamics CRM began on July 1, 2014. Based upon clerks’ experiences using Dynamics CRM to complete several statutory requirements and other feedback from clerks, it is clear that the more intuitive interface of Dynamics CRM can address several of the current SVRS deficiencies and improve election administration for both clerks and G.A.B. staff.
Development of WisVote was completed in late 2015, and the system went live on January 11, 2016.