Washington’s Modernized Elections System Provides One-Stop-Shop for Voters
The state of Washington launched a new and modernized voter registration system this summer to enable citizens to register to vote, update their voter profile and review customized election information in a centralized system, while also supporting the needs of Washington’s local election officials. The system, known as VoteWA, is a one-stop-shop for all things election-related.
In addition, the state’s newly implemented same-day voter registration allows a citizen to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. VoteWA allows election officials statewide to see each new registration in real-time to ensure that the voter is not registered elsewhere within the state.
VoteWA’s creation and implementation were headed by Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Washington Director of Elections Lori Augino. Wyman is co-chair of The Council of State Governments Overseas Voting Initiative, or OVI, and Augino is an OVI Working Group member. Both are part of OVI’s Data Standardization and Implementation Subgroup. OVI works to remove barriers to voting faced by active duty military personnel serving abroad and U.S. citizens living overseas.
“We took 41 systems and integrated them into one statewide system that's providing direct election support for our 39 local election jurisdictions across Washington while also providing forward-facing tools to voters,” Augino said. “This system provides instant access for all of our voters across Washington, particularly UOCAVA [Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act] voters.”
With an older voter registration system fed by counties with independent, aging systems, Washington officials became concerned about election security, data integration, redundancy and recovery. Prior to VoteWA’s implementation, Washington’s 39 counties each had its own data management process, there was a statewide system with all voter registration information, and many of the counties had contracts with different technology providers for electronic ballot delivery solutions.
“There were lots of challenges with the old system, but one of the most important was how to keep all of those systems up to date and in sync,” said Augino.
The state became entirely vote-by-mail in 2012 and has allowed online voter registration since 2007 and a system was needed that could more efficiently carry out these processes. Additionally, same-day voter registration went into effect in 2019 and the system needed to be ready to address the new procedures.
Wyman and Augino worked to modernize the system with the input, support and leadership of Washington’s local election officials.
“We created a county-driven approach incorporating feedback from counties of all sizes in all regions of the state, who were working with multiple technology providers involved in various committees to ensure the system we were building was one that met Washington’s needs,” Augino said.
However, building the system itself was not enough. The county officials and their teams needed to understand how the system worked.
“In addition to our committees, we leveraged county elections experts to participate in all aspects of the development and testing of the new statewide system,” Augino said. “Then we unleashed them to train all elections administrators across Washington. We have a long-standing tradition of working very collaboratively with our local election officials. I'm the champion for local election officials not only in Washington but nationwide. I was a former local election official; Secretary Wyman was a former local election official and we have the highest respect for that work.”
Augino’s biggest piece of advice for states considering similar modernization is to “work collaboratively with your local election partners. There is never enough organizational change management that you can do to prepare everyone for the changes that result from new system implementation.”