The Government SMART Act

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office Scott Gessler
House & Senate State, Veteran’s and Military Affairs Committees Monday, January 14, 2013

I.

Introduction: The Secretary of State is focused on customer service

My remarks today will focus on our number one priority in the Secretary of State’s office—customer service. Providing top-notch customer service is the driving force across all divisions. Our Information Technology Division employs industry best practices to maintain roundthe-clock public access to our databases. We maintain the statewide voter registration system and provide support to our county election officials. We also aggressively utilize technology to become more efficient and save money. In our Business and Licensing Division, great customer service means being a national leader in keeping business costs low and ensuring 24/7 online accessibility. It means providing responsive and knowledgeable answers to our customers’ questions. And it means providing new services that help make Colorado a more business friendly state. In our Elections Division, great customer service means helping Coloradans register to vote or run for office and helping our county election officials save money in conducting elections. It means improving the integrity of our election system and fostering participation in our political process. My presentation will walk you through the activities of each of our divisions. Afterwards, I will explain how we are implementing the strategic planning process. II. Information Technology Division hot issues

Our IT services are the lifeblood of the department. Within the past decade, we’ve moved from a mostly paper-based office, to one almost exclusively conducted electronically. Our IT staff maintains 24-7 online access and internal staff support, while protecting against hundreds of thousands of online attacks per day. Even with this workload, my staff continues to pursue the latest technologies by increasing our online capabilities and moving to more efficient servers and other hardware units. In addition, we continue to increase the quality of our online services to help our customers save time and money. 1. We’re building a more efficient virtualized office.

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We are continuing to make improvements to our website, which is the primary way many of our customers interact with us. We’ll be continuing to move core functionality to mobileoptimized websites, testing and improving the usability of our website, and following industry best practices for website design. Last year, we completed a modernization of Windows-based systems in the office, moving to virtualized platforms to increase our flexibility This move helps us achieve a 20% energy savings. This year, we are working on this modernization for Unix and Linux-based systems. 2. We are looking at new and innovative ways of leveraging state resources. After the completion of our UCC modernization project, we are exploring the potential of licensing our software through a third party and marketing to other public jurisdictions. This will allow our office to re-invest the additional revenue back into our department which will help keep our filing fees low. 3. Maintaining the security of our systems and data remains a top priority. With a data-rich online presence, we’re constantly under attack from predators. We are actively working with the new state Chief Information Security Officer to improve the security posture of our office and the State of Colorado, and perform regular vulnerability and penetration testing of our systems to maintain our high standards. 4. My office is leveraging eLearning technology to support our end users. The Secretary of State’s office maintains significant training and educational support responsibilities. Instead of costly in-person, out-of-office presentations, we’re developing a robust, online eLearning platform to deliver trainings directly to our customers’ homes and offices. We’re able to successfully capture institutional knowledge while we build the training content and effectively explain best practices to people on the ground. We’re using this system across our divisions to train voter registration drive organizers, county election workers, games managers, notaries public and others. Instead of limiting our courses to specific presentations or making applicants travel, we’ve increased the quality and number of trainings available, which saves customers time and money.

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And, our efforts are being noticed. Colorado Springs resident Judy Murphy was applying to be a games manager on behalf of the Velvet Hills Show Chorus who told us, “I did the training and submitted the survey. Thank you for doing this. It was so much easier than going to a class.” Additionally, Stacy Johnson from Rolling Hills Elementary agreed saying, “This was a great course and I loved taking it at my convenience.” Finally, I’ve also been invited to be the keynote speaker at Training Industry’s Partnering for Performance 2013 conference this spring where I’ll present on the benefits we’ve seen from eLearning. We continue to see significant value and return on our investment as we develop more and more content and training options. 5. Fulfilling customer calls quickly and efficiently using private sector technology. We are preparing to rollout a Customer Relationship Management or CRM system through our main customer contact units in the office. A pilot last year demonstrated that a sophisticated CRM can help us manage our customer and constituent services more efficiently, and we’ll begin to see the benefits of this throughout the office over the next several months. I look forward to presenting our findings along with corresponding numbers at my presentation next year. III. Business and Licensing Division hot issues

As the gateway for Colorado businesses, my office prides itself on making a strong first impression. We aim to give new businesses a clear path to their registration where they can quickly file their information and pay the lowest fees in the nation. From for-profit, to non-profit, to charities and notaries public, we’re constantly offering newer and faster services that make compliance as easy as possible. As Colorado’s economy continues to show signs of recovery, here are some key initiatives we’re developing that move our department, and our state, forward. 1. Colorado’s business fees are among the lowest nationwide.

My office has steadily dropped its filing fees throughout 2012. Right now, our customers are enjoying our lowest fees ever at $1.00 per filing. All fees between $10 and $125 have been temporarily reduced to $1.00. For years, this office has built a surplus, and as we become more
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and more efficient, we are finding ways to keep more money in the business and non-profit communities. Consequently, we see this temporary reduction helping our customers. For example, a local Notary Public named Jessica told us, “I've been a Public Notary for many years. This helps in small ways many of us pro-actively searching for full and part time work like myself as [an] administrative assistant - while we use our public notary skills to get by financially.” Additionally, the fee reductions are also helping our non-profit community. In Fort Collins, a local community group explained the direct benefit of the fee reduction: “In our case, it will allow us to provide 53 more people per year with an eye exam and glasses (this is almost a 15% increase!).” 2. New customer service technologies keep costs low.

My aim is to minimize the burden on small businesses and non-profits when filing, registering or applying for licenses with our office. That said, we’ve successfully transitioned all of our filings online, except for the IRS, which isn’t ready. But for everyone else, we’ve coupled online filings with a responsive, efficient call center to provide the customer service our constituents expect. Online filings are more efficient for our office, as well as our customers. These efficiencies are what allow us to keep fees among the lowest in the nation. 3. We’re streamlining our notifications through email.

Last January, my office transitioned from postcard reminders to email notification for our business filers. The move saves my office $250,000 per year. But our customers are receiving more notifications. We’ve seen an increase in our compliance rate for renewed business filings thanks in large part to these email notifications. 4. A new business efficiency suite will save businesses time and money.

Last session, we worked with the legislature to initiate an overhaul of our business filing system with an eye on generating even greater efficiency. My office identified 13 specific projects to improve our business and non-profit registration systems. Among those issues, we’ll be enhancing our usability and online forms to reduce filing mistakes. We’ll provide online certifications so customers won’t have to wait for mailings or make in-person requests. We are going to develop user-tools for pre-paid accounts. Most of the
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specific projects come directly from suggestions from our customers and we’re proud to provide these improvements. We began the three-year initiative last year so look for announcements as we roll out each of these 13 efficiencies. 5. The office is partnering with the University of Colorado to provide economic indicators based on aggregate business filings.

Streamlined filings, coupled with some of the country’s lowest fees, signal that Colorado is open for business. But more information for businesses can help them make better decisions. As a result, we’ve worked with CU to develop business economic indicators using our business formation data. We’re releasing this information in a free quarterly report to provide businesses and policy-makers with information to make informed capital investment decisions. 6. Colorado is the nation’s leader in combating business identity theft.

As businesses and non-profits file their information, they want to know that it’s also safeguarded from identity thieves. Last year, my office unveiled our secure business filing center to combat business identity theft. Thus far, more than 30,000 businesses have safeguarded their information using password protection. In fact, last May, the International Association of Commercial Administrators recognized our secure business filing center with a Merit Award. Our filers have been diligent in protecting themselves from these identity thieves by signing up for emailing notification and password-protecting their filings. We’re continuing to work with other states, law enforcement and lenders to eradicate this abuse and I’m happy to say that Colorado leads the pack. B. We continue to push the boundaries of traditional government services, as we seek to make Colorado more business friendly. 1. In concert with OIT and other state agencies, we’re leading the charge to create a Business Intelligence Center.

Our success with the CU partnership on economic indicators was just the beginning in an effort to provide public data to assist businesses. There is much more we can do to make public data more valuable to business leaders and entrepreneurs. We approached OIT about helping us to aggregate data across state agencies and coupling that with GIS data. We intend to build a

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platform to make data more accessible and provide improved information resources to the business community. Economic developers from Cortez to Julesburg and Springfield to Craig could have access to local and regional economic data to assist in their business development decisions. The Business Intelligence Center will put Colorado at the forefront of government making public data more accessible and valuable. Businesses and would-be businesses will be able to use the information and analysis to make more informed decisions and more efficiently allocate capital—or create new business models entirely. I’m excited about the possibilities surrounding this project. We are working with the JBC now to obtain the spending authority to move this project forward. IV. Election Division hot issues

Moving now to my Elections Division, I’ve focused on cost savings, improving the integrity of our system and fostering participation in our political process. I’m happy to say my office delivered. Counties spent less money on voter registration and overseas voters, our voter rolls are the cleanest they’ve ever been and Colorado witnessed a 1.8% jump in voter participation between 2008 and 2012. Though Colorado conducted a successful presidential election, we still have work to do. As some of you know, I’ve been touring the state and listening to voters as part of my election integrity listening tour. So far, I’ve visited nine counties with more on the West Slope scheduled later this month. I’ve been impressed by the turnout and the interest shown by voters and we’ve heard some great feedback and ideas. We are analyzing this feedback to see where we can improve elections going forward. That said, I want to update you on our current projects and goals for the future. 1. Online voter registration and ballot options make voting easy. This was the first presidential election where Coloradans could register and verify their voter information online. We’ve made improvements and usability enhancements since 2010 to make registering to vote even easier. In fact, 230,000 Coloradans registered or updated their registration using the online system between September 1 and October 9, 2012. That’s compared to the 2010 election, when 50,000 Coloradans used the online voter registration system in the entire six-month period preceding the voter registration deadline. Moving Coloradans to online registration benefits everyone. Voters find greater convenience while reducing paperwork for county offices. Online registration also reduces the
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potential for data entry errors, thus improving the accuracy of our voter rolls. We carried out an aggressive, statewide outreach campaign to drive Coloradans to the online system. This campaign was a great success. While hundreds of thousands registered or updated their records, millions visited the site to verify their information, including 162,000 visits on the registration deadline alone. By Election Day, we had more people registered to vote in Colorado than ever before. And we improved the integrity of the voter rolls as over 185,000 people updated their registration information in the month before the registration deadline. Our system is a strong benefit to the state and one of the national models. 2. While domestic voting increased, so did participation by our military and overseas voters. In 2010, Colorado successfully deployed a pilot project in select counties to deliver ballots electronically to our military and overseas voters. Last year, I rolled this system out statewide so all of our UOCAVA voters would have electronic access to their ballots, while protecting the security our voters deserve. Additionally, we secured a federal grant to purchase high-speed, ballot-on-demand printers for every county in Colorado. These printers will both improve service delivery for the counties and, at the same time, save county taxpayer dollars. Thanks to the printers and electronic ballot delivery system, Colorado witnessed a 25% increase in ballots cast by our military and overseas voters. So far, we also received significant accolades from our constituents. People like Aurora residents Marty and Susan Zmolek, who currently attend a language school in Prague, Czech Republic, who said, “The other American students are so envious of how simple it is for us to vote our entire ballot by email, which is not an option in many other states. Thank you for being the leading state in the nation for making it easy for us overseas voters!” Also, last week I heard from a man in Fort Collins during our listening tour about his daughter’s experience this past election. She was living in Belgrade Serbia, working for the World Bank. Her office was staffed by U.S. citizens from many states and she told her father that as a Colorado resident, she had by far the easiest time obtaining and casting her ballot, which shows Colorado as a national leader. 3. Our support continues for county election officials and their voters. Running elections in Colorado is tough work. As we work in partnership with the counties, we want to proactively support their efforts and help them deliver successful elections.

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We want to get in front of problems before they impact election outcomes. My staff has been more aggressive by quickly deploying boots-on-the-ground to support county officials. Last year, we sent staff to counties to supplement our training by showing counties how to set up an election in the statewide voter registration system, to fill-in for key county staffers who are unavailable at critical times and to provide leadership in a struggling county office. These deployments are not done lightly but do help provide face-to-face contact to ensure compliance and a successful election. 4. Not all candidate districts end at the county lines, which is why we unveiled our statewide election night reporting system. Colorado was one of only eight states that failed to provide a one-stop-shop for election night reporting. Before last year’s election, voters would have to visit individual county web sites to tabulate multi-county races. With a presidential race and newly drawn congressional districts, we provided a consolidated reporting system so voters could watch the results for themselves. This session, we’re working with the JBC to secure permanent funding for our election night reporting system. We think the public deserves a system that enhances transparency and visibility into Colorado elections statewide. A. While we close the book on 2012, we’re already looking forward to improvements for the future. 1. As county election equipment reaches the end of its lifecycle, we need to plan now for future purchases.

With four different voting equipment vendors operating in Colorado, our system is both costly and complex with limited support to those that need it. I’ve begun a working group to start the conversation toward a uniform voting system. This working group is comprised of county election workers, in addition to Rep. Court and Rep. Joshi. Let me be clear, I’m not asking counties to throw out their current equipment or purchase anything new. This working group will chart a course for new purchases when they’re needed. My aim is to develop economies of scale so the price per machine in Arapahoe County is the same as Baca County’s cost. With a uniform system, my office and neighboring counties could better support elections offices with troubleshooting and maintenance needs, currently a costdriver particularly for counties in Rep. Dore’s and Sen. Schwartz’s districts.

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As this working group continues, I’ll keep you informed of its progress and its final recommendations. 2. Election integrity should not be limited to primary and general elections.

During off-elections, voters have complained of being frozen out of special district elections both on the front end for candidate applications and on the back end of receiving and casting a ballot. The fact is, special district elections fall under the state’s election code and these taxing districts should abide by the same policies and procedures voters expect. We’re reaching out to interested stakeholders to define a path forward and identify common sense solutions that preserves election integrity while promoting participation. 3. Though our voter rolls are the cleanest ever, we still have vulnerabilities in the system.

Since the state transitioned from 64 county voter rolls to one real-time, statewide system, we made vast improvements to address the integrity of our database. That said, we can do better. Voter Information Consolidation Effort (VoICE) By July 1, we’re asking all of the counties to complete their voter merges. We still have voters with multiple voter records. We need to combine these to form one complete record. Once we complete these consolidations, we can run our driver’s license duplication check. The statewide voter registration system prevents any registrations with the same driver’s license number. But due to past data entry errors, we haven’t activated that option yet. For example, last year we sent mailings to Coloradans with driver’s licenses but no voter records, inviting them to register to vote. Former Senator Norma Anderson received one of those postcards. Turns out when she registered to vote, her driver’s license number was entered incorrectly in the system. So, her actual driver’s license number was not recognized during our comparison, which is why she received the postcard. This was a perfect example of our need to use data matching to clean up slop in the system. Non-citizen voters When I took office two years ago, 220 voters were listed as cancelled due to noncitizenship in the state’s voter registration system. Now, that number has increased to 522. The fact remains, non-citizens can register to vote undetected. Before I pressed the federal government for access to its immigration database, there was no way to verify citizenship

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information. But let me be clear, our system remains vulnerable to non-citizens registering to vote. Our comparison will only capture lawful residents who register with a driver’s license. Clearly, many permanent residents and other lawfully present individuals remain confused about our voter registration laws or have received bad advice. At the request of Senator Hudak, I’ve included a sampling of the letters we’ve received from non-citizens requesting to be removed from the voter rolls. The first page is a letter from a permanent resident from Douglas County, who says, “As an innocent immigrant and without enough knowledge, I did vote twice because I thought that this is my obligation and duty and if I didn’t vote, my situation as an immigrant will be jeopardized.” This voter voted in both 2004 and 2005. The next page highlights another example from a voter in Jefferson County, who writes, “My reason for this request is I’m trying to become a U.S. Citizen and I didn’t know that I couldn’t vote or be registered to vote.” Unfortunately, this voter cast a ballot at a polling place during the 2008 presidential election. Though many accidentally register themselves, others explain that they were misled when they registered. The next page of the packet includes a Denver voter who explains that a voter registration drive organizer gave her bad advice. She says, “I was approached by a voter registration volunteer at a mall recently, and she informed me that as a legal resident of Colorado, having lived here for many years, I was eligible to vote in local elections but not national ones.” Though she did indicate she was not a citizen on the voter registration form, she was registered in error and luckily removed herself before she voted. But the confusion doesn’t only stop with the voters or the registrars, even election judges misunderstand the law. The next page references a provisional ballot. You can see the voter indicated s/he was not a citizen and even wrote “Legal Resident” under that question. But in the upper right-hand corner, you’ll see that the ballot was counted anyway. This same voter went on to vote again in 2008, but was cancelled after s/he was flagged by the federal government as a non-citizen. We need to do a better job identifying these voters and removing them from the voter rolls before they receive a ballot and potentially jeopardize their path to citizenship by committing a felony. I’m offering two bills this session. One will initiate the Administrative Procedures Act after a voter is identified as a non-citizen by the federal government. Obviously we don’t want to remove eligible voters from the rolls, so this is a safeguard to prevent that from happening. It is a reasoned, careful approach to provide due process as we work to make sure only eligible citizens are registered and voting.

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The second bill establishes training for all voter registration drive workers. We want to ensure that all Coloradans receive accurate information about registering to vote and this training is a step in the right direction. Cross-state voter checks My predecessor joined eight other states to compare our voter rolls and vote history to identify voters who cast ballots across state lines. That cooperative has grown to 18 states total to both prevent multiple registrations and punish voters who vote twice in an election. So far, we’ve identified multiple voters in Kansas and Arizona and we are investigating leads in other states as well. Soon we’ll compare data again with these other states to ensure no one gamed the system. Any instances of multiple votes are turned over to the FBI and U.S. Attorneys offices for them to prosecute. Election Registration and Information Center (ERIC) Colorado has also joined another consortium of states organized by the Pew Center on the States to create a national clearinghouse for voter registration data. This new database will join voter registration records from all 50 states and compare with other databases to help clean and update the information. The improved data will serve two purposes. The first will help states quickly identify new voters to solicit them to register to vote. This limits confusion and the need for voter registration drives when the state is inviting them to participate. The second will provide for higher quality data. As I said earlier in my remarks, data entry errors and other mistakes have led to inaccuracies in our voter rolls. This can hamper voters’ access to their ballots or result in ineligible voters. As we progress with the ERIC project, I hope to significantly enhance our data quality and improve the integrity of our elections. 4. We’ve identified a compromise approach to the contentious InactiveFailed to Vote issue. Over the past couple of months, we’ve worked closely with Denver County Clerk and Recorder Deb Johnson to find middle-ground on delivering mail ballots to inactive voters. After fleshing out the issue, we came to an understanding and an approach that balances ballot delivery with the safeguards our voters expect.

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Look for a stand-alone bill later this session, and I hope to be before your committees in support of this compromise legislation. V. Colorado’s Secretary of State’s office is taking bold strides into the future. As you can see, my office has an aggressive agenda that serves the American dream for all Coloradans. This was the starting point for our strategic plan. I’ve included today my department’s strategic plan that guides every individual in my office.

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