Thursday, October 2, 2008

HAVA compliance now! No wait, scratch that....

Thanks to an email tipster, I was made aware of this little bit of interesting news that had otherwise slipped under my (sleepy, coughing) radar:

A recent alert by the Social Security Administration announces that the agency plans to shut down its databases for maintenance from October 11 through October 13. While this might not sound like an election issue, it turns out that this could significantly impede registration of first-time voters as well as the re-registration of eligible citizens.

Here's why. A 2002 federal law, the Help America Vote Act, requires all states to "coordinate" their voter registration databases with the Social Security database (and state motor vehicle databases) for the purpose of processing new voter registration forms. For the millions of voters who do not have current driver's licenses and register using the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, state election officials are required to try to match their voter registration information against Social Security records. But if the Social Security database is down—as it will be for four days—they won't be able to do that. Across the country, the processing of these voter registration forms will grind to a halt for four days.

Both Senator Diane Feinstein and EAC Commissioner Rosemary Rodriquez have sent letters to the SSA asking them to delay the shut down until after the elections, which seems like an entirely reasonable request to me. No word yet on whether or not the SSA will actually do that, though.

Which leaves us with the distinct possibility that, in the midst of one of the busiest election cycles in recent memory, when state's voter registration officials are scrambling to keep up not only with new registrations but, as may be the case in Wisconsin, with cross-checking older registrations in order to comply with last-minute lawsuits, said officials may be plain SOL for four days.

Let the good times roll.

Now, whether or not this was some planned partisan move, I can't rightly say. My hunch is that it was just really, really bad timing on the SSA's part--stupid, thoughtless timing--and not a concerted effort at further mucking up the voter registration process. It is interesting to note, however, that Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue "is a veteran of Republican administrations going back more than 20 years, according to his biography on the SSA Web site. Campaign finance records also show that the Belmont, Mass., resident has given more than $35,000 to GOP candidates and causes during the past decade."

Regardless, though, I sincerely hope that the SSA agrees to postpone the shut down until after the elections. State officials already have enough to worry about leading up to Nov. 4 without the added monkey wrench of the complete disappearance of their main resource for four days in October.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps I'm being dumb here - but of those 4 days, isn't only 1 a normal business day?

Emily said...

That does look to be the case, and the system is now saying that the shutdown shouldn't effect the Social Security Online Verification or HAVA verification systems, so assuming that's correct, that's good.

The Lost Albatross