Secretary of State Seeks Mail Ballot Tracking System

In a request for quotation, the California Secretary of State’s Office calls for a contractor to deliver a “Vote by Mail Ballot Tracking System” capable of engaging the state, residents and election officials in all 58 counties.

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The entity responsible for overseeing federal and state elections in California is seeking assistance from IT vendors to do more with voter ballots.

In a request for quotation (RFQ) for Information Technology Services released April 28, the California Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) is looking for a contractor to provide a “Vote by Mail (VBM) Ballot Tracking System (BTS)” via monthly subscription as well as the “services, resources and tools to support a successful implementation of the BTS Managed Software-as-a-Service (MSaaS) solution” for counties that decide to participate. Among the takeaways:

  • State elections code dating to Jan. 1, 2020, requires the SOS to “establish a system that a county elections official may use to allow a vote-by-mail voter to track his or her vote-by-mail ballot through the mail system and as the vote-by-mail ballot is processed by the county elections official.” This system has to, at a minimum, let the voter register to receive information via email, text message or voice message from the county elections official about their ballot’s status, and must be available to each county. More specifically, the BTS shall let voters receive information from county elections officials on the status of their VBM ballot via email, text or voice message. That includes notifications of when the postal service has delivered a ballot to a county election official; of whether that ballot has been “returned as undeliverable” to USPS; of the date or time frame for when a voter is expected get his or her VBM ballot; and of when a ballot has been counted or cannot be counted.
  • Among the contract requirements, the BTS shall allow SOS and counties to “transmit voter registration information and ballot issuance and return data to the BTS starting at least 90 days before each election date,” with voter registration information taking the “form of data extracts generated by a custom database query from the statewide voter registration database (VoteCal).” It shall also accept and process extracts “with multiple reason codes and delivery times for all messages”; let SOS “customize and configure the data events that trigger messages to voters” via a “web-based administrative portal or dashboard”; provide a web portal for registered voters to create accounts and view their ballot’s status; and have the ability to deliver the same service level to the SOS and all 58 counties at the same time.
  • Generally, the contractor must follow California Department of General Services’ Cloud Computing Services Special Provisions language on security and “identify any potential weaknesses and provide a remediation plan and milestones for each” through a plan of action. Other requirements include certifying “the sufficiency of its security standards, tools, technologies and procedures in providing MSaaS under this contract.” The contractor must also offer training created with SOS, for “SOS, county election management system vendors and all participating county representatives.” Data shall be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year outside “agreed-upon maintenance downtime”; contractor assumes responsibility for the security and confidentiality of the data under its control; and no data shall be “copied, modified, destroyed or deleted” by the contractor except under “normal operation or maintenance of MSaaS” without SOS’ written permission. Collectively or individually, the contractor’s staff must have “two years’ demonstrated experience developing, testing, managing and supporting ballot tracking systems on a statewide level.”
  • The contract value is not stated. The contract term is anticipated to be June 1-May 31, 2023, and the contractor should be ready to start work within 10 business days of the award date. Written questions are due Wednesday, and responses will come Friday. Quotes are due by 4 p.m. May 12, and the anticipated contract award date is May 20.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.