Procurement Guide: Should I Build a Voter Registration System?
Modernizing your voter registration system may seem like a daunting challenge, especially in light of public scrutiny over security and accuracy.
As election director for the State of South Dakota when we implemented a new voter registration system, I understand the pressure to meet state requirements, provide a great user experience for election administrators, and ensure public confidence. I have since brought my experience to Everyone Counts but I’ll never forget the challenges I faced when I was in your position.
Considering the following six build or buy questions helped me navigate the transition of this critical infrastructure:
Are my requirements unique?
- Available purchased solutions meet most requirements, even if 10%–20% customization is required
- Your highly specialized needs are not met by commercially available voter registration software
When is my project deadline?
Only advisable if your project team has ample time to analyze business requirements, write code, integrate with various APIs, perform testing, and address any complications that arise in development
- Ideal when a quick, seamless deployment is needed
Improved through extensive testing and usage by other users of the system which means fewer bugs and more reliable performance
What is the budget?
- Building a voter registration system in-house is costly and therefore better suited for large, well-funded organizations
Determining the level of financial commitment can be challenging
- When working with a limited budget, a commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) solution with predictable ongoing licensing costs makes more sense
Do available in-house resources align with the scope of my project?
Your software team has the experience and skills required to create top-quality software
Your organization can commit resources needed to perform ongoing maintenance and address emerging security threats for several years down the road
- Your development team lacks the technical proficiency or time required to build, maintain and upgrade a voter registration system
In fast-paced election environments, purchasing a commercial solution gives administrators the ability to focus on what’s important
Do we have the proper tools?
- Yes; you have already invested in, or are dependent upon, tools that may not be supported by commercially available voter registration systems
- No; bug trackers, source code repositories, and automation tools are neither cheap to purchase nor quick to learn, so you could benefit from investments made by COTS software vendors
What future upgrades and features are on your roadmap?
If your voter registration roadmap is atypical, building is likely more efficient than paying a vendor for extensive customization
Total control over development and features is necessary
Your organization is capable of adapting to constantly evolving technology as in-house developed software can quickly become obsolete
- If you share common business practices with other supported clients of voter registration solutions, you can expect additional features and upgrades based on security best practices and legislative changes
COTS platforms generally offer greater scalability and flexibility