Voter registrars in Alabama learning new version of election system

New version coming online just as officials deal with new congressional map and new term

By: - June 30, 2023 6:59 am
A polling place

LORDSTOWN, OH – MAY 03: A voter shows identification to an election judge during primary voting on May 3, 2022 in Lordstown, Ohio. Former President Donald Trump recently endorsed J.D. Vance in the Ohio Republican Senate primary. Other candidates in the Republican Senate primary field include Josh Mandel, Mike Gibbons, Jane Timken, Matt Dolan and Mark Pukita. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Registrars around Alabama will have to  get acquainted with upgrades to a new election system as a new set of registrars begin their terms at the end of September.

Current registrars are learning the new system ahead of the implementation of a new state congressional map later this year.

“Because of the newness of the system, we are addressing that more than any other issue,” said Don Milligan, board chair of the Voter Registration Advisory Board, in an interview at the conclusion of a meeting on Thursday.

Jeff Elrod, director of elections with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office said the changes to the system were mostly “cosmetic.”

“The layout, the design of the system, the way that you navigate the program,” he said. “It was just a decision by the company, our vendor (Election Systems & Software), that it was time to update and make it more functional from a web-based perspective.”

The updated system is available and is in the process of getting released to the different boards of registrars in the various counties in the state.

Elrod, along with staff and consultants with the vendor, will set aside time aside at a gathering in mid-July to assist registrars with any issues they encounter, but recommended they work with the updated version to get an understanding of the interface.

Among the problems has been incorporating the GIS (Geographic Information System) component, which some counties are still trying to incorporate into the new version.

“The issue has been that not every county uses GIS,” Elrod said. “But as we discussed in the meeting, we are trying to get the counties to a point where they can utilize GIS, and when they get there, GIS will be compatible with voter registration that they use.”

It will not be a quick turnaround. Elrod does not have a specific timetable, but estimates that it will take a couple of years to get all counties in the state to incorporate GIS into their election systems.

Officials discussed potential interventions for accelerating the learning curve on the new election system during Thursday’s Voter Registration Advisory Board meeting.

“It is not insurmountable though,” Milligan said. “We can handle it.”

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Ralph Chapoco
Ralph Chapoco

Ralph Chapoco covers state politics as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. His main responsibility is the criminal justice system in Alabama.