RD581 - Department of Elections VERIS Assessment Version 1.0 – November 20, 2019
This summary is based upon a community wide survey and onsite interview sessions involving a substantial population of local general registrars and their staff. The included findings/feedback draw upon a wide spectrum of user expertise levels and VERIS related experiences. Users range from newly hired to seasoned elections experts and their VERIS experience and involvement ranges from minimal/limited to those actively involved with the solution since its implementation in 2007.
From inception to today, there have been significant improvements made to VERIS as a direct result of additional funding provided by the legislature. Although these improvements have positively impacted VERIS’ performance and the user’s experience, they have not been able to overcome the more fundamental issues inherent in the product.
This assessment draws from multiple sources that include:
• Interviews with ELECT staff
• Interviews with locality elections staff
• Results from a survey of locality elections staff
• Input from subject matter experts that comprise the team that developed this recommendation
Each option is assessed based upon how closely the option aligns with the desired future state. The document notes where data available to this assessment are limited. Those areas warrant further exploration.
While VERIS adequately supports most current functions necessary to administer elections at the local- and state-level, VERIS does present deficiencies and limitations. Critical to any system is its ability to meet an organization’s workload demands. During certain high use periods VERIS performance has been seen to degrade thereby affecting the user’s work efficiency. The VERIS technical architecture and platform hinders ELECT’s ability to provide improvements and enhancements in a timely, effective, and cost-effective manner. Further, the current technical architecture is based on a technology framework that is at risk of end-of-support and eventually end-of-life.
The desired state system needs to enhance functional capabilities to address current deficiencies. In addition, the desired state system needs to leverage the most up-to-date technology, reducing overhead and costs for maintenance, and adapting to changing and advancing technologies. The desired state system ideally leverages cloud-based services. Depending on the architecture of the desired state system, cloud services may lead to operating cost reductions, scalability and elasticity via dynamic ("on-demand") provisioning of resources on a fine-grained, self-service basis in near real-time.
The consideration to rebuild VERIS runs somewhat counter to industry best practices given the criticality and complexity of a voter election system. Detractions include the need for adequate code base documentation, the need to establish a new system architecture, and the need to establish new technical knowledge and core competencies among the ELECT organization and vendor. Such an undertaking generally takes significant work to execute properly and the costs of making the wrong decision may be felt for years. There may be a risk that it will be difficult to convince the user community that the new system is effective if users associate the VERIS name with an insufficient albeit older product.
In general, it is usually far more cost effective, faster, and less risky to engage a partner with a third-party solution that is closer aligned with the desired state. A third-party partner is in a better position to anticipate ELECT’s needs as it is in close touch with trends in other states. A third-party solution may allow ELECT to obtain enhancements that the vendor implements in response to other states. There may be an opportunity to get enhancements at lower or no cost if the vendor has implemented it in another state previously, and it becomes part of the offering. This concept must be caveated with the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia has many electoral code nuances not applicable in other states that will need to be addressed. A custom solution must incur the cost of each new feature. A third-party solution will also be driven by the marketplace to ensure technology currency and advantage over competitors.
Thus, the Department of Elections recommends replacement of VERIS with a new voter registration system acquired first through the Request for Information (RFI) process. The RFI would inform ELECT in refining its approach to the conduct of a Request for Proposal (RFP). As part of the RFP, further financial analysis is required to fully understand the total cost of ownership.