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Three weeks before N.J. primary, state election system keeps crashing

Motor Vehicle data not integrating with Division of Elections database

By David Wildstein, June 17 2020 8:36 pm

New Jersey’s Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) is crashing frequently, terrifying county election officials attempting to meet deadlines for a statewide primary election that will be conducted almost entirely through vote-by-mail ballots.

Five different election officials confirmed to the New Jersey Globe that the state’s voter database is not available to them at certain points during business hours because of technology issues the state has been unable to solve.

“There are times we need to access to (the) SVRS and we can’t get in because it’s down,” an election official said.  “It’s slowing down our ability to be ready for the July 7 primary.”

The Globe has learned that the SVRS had faced severe challenges before the coronavirus pandemic, and Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision to implement all-VBM municipal elections in May and a nearly-all vote-by-mail primary have further hobbled an already frail system.

There have been addition reports of glitches with integrating data collected by the state Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) into the state voter database, leaving some election officers without the ability to properly sent out some Democratic and Republican ballots.

The MVC provides information to the Division of Elections when state residents complete any driver’s license transaction, including name and address changes, according to Jim Hooker, the deputy administrator of strategic communications.

“While agencies were closed to the public, we processed about 250,000 license transactions,” Hooker said. “In each case that information was automatically provided to the Division of Elections for voter registration unless the individual opted out or was ineligible to vote.”

In one case, a voter who changed their name after getting married received a VBM ballot under the old name and not the one on the driver’s license.

The agency decided against accepting voter registrations during their limited opening on Monday and Tuesday, but several motor vehicle agents told the Globe that they were never given instructions on how to handle that issue.

It took the MVC more than 30 hours to respond to questions about their acceptance of voter registration forms during drop off and pick up services that began this week.

The Division of Elections did not immediately respond to a 4:21 PM email seeking comment on their technology breakdown.

Officials had complained last month that a software malfunction delayed the mailing of some military and overseas ballots.

The SVRS vendor, KnowInk, has been unable to fix glitches.

The Division of Elections awarded a $17 million contract in 2013 to maintain the SVRS to Everyone Counts, a company based in LaJolla, California.   That company was later acquired by the Cleveland-based Votem Corp.

Votem sold the New Jersey contract to KnowInk.

The new DVRS database was initially scheduled to change over to a new system in 2019 but delays moved changes to 2020.

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