Jeopardize Democracy Over a Few Lines of Code

The Los Angeles Times reported today that "More than 23,000 Californians were registered to vote incorrectly by state DMV."

The reason:

The errors, which were discovered more than a month ago, happened when DMV employees did not clear their computer screens between customer appointments. That caused some voter information from the previous appointment, such as language preference or a request to vote by mail, to be “inadvertently merged” into the file of the next customer, Shiomoto and Tong wrote. The incorrect registration form was then sent to state elections officials, who used it to update California’s voter registration database.

So the software developer forgot to add a few lines of code: after the employee saved the record, the screen input data should have auto cleared.

This error should have been caught in BETA testing when voter input was compared with data to be sent to the DMV. Was such a test designed and planned? Was this type of BETA test executed?

This is the second problem with the system. In May 2018, the Independent Voter Network reported there was a problem with the way that voter affiliation worked.

In principle, it would seem like a good idea to make it easy and convenient to register to vote at the same time one is getting a driver's license. Afterall, both voting and driving matters are regulated by the State, so why not do both at the same time? Unfortunately, the DMV has a long reputation for suboptimal, failed software efforts going back to 1994.

California has more than 26 million licensed drivers, more than any other state! This means that the systems for processing such data are extremely large and necessarily complex, geographically dispersed, with scalability and data migration issues. Creating a new system or replacement system would be a major endeavor.

Nevertheless, clearing the buffers, registers, and screen, automatically, after the submission of each customer transaction, seems straightforward, even elementary. The software developer has some explaining to do.

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