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OVF adoption proposal background materials

Message sent to DPCA Leadership, Sunday 25 May 2014
 
Dear Leaders,
 
Our current VoteFromAbroad.org website is not up to date with current and accurate local election official (LEO) data or with the latest FPCA voter registration form, and the website is in need of some crucial security and software module updates.
 
So, we face a choice.  We have the option of contracting our existing single developer to carry out these required updates -- which will also require substantial time and input from DA volunteers to review and confirm the content and legal accuracy of both the state-by-state on-line input forms and the generated FPCA PDF documents.
 
Or, we have the option of establishing a hosted platform relationship with the Overseas Vote Foundation -- a single-purpose non-profit organization that is focused on providing voter registration tools for US States and other voter registration organizations.
 
In either case, our use and promotion of www.VoteFromAbroad.org web address will not change! (abbreviated below as VFA.org)
 
Key Issues for Consideration: 

  1. DA must be able to provide our voters with accurate, up-to-date, legally compliant, state-specific FPCA form and local election official (LEO) information.
  2. DA needs to be able to confidently promote our www.VoteFromAbroad.org site, knowing that we are providing our voters with the best, and most reliable, experience possible.
  3. Where possible, we need to be able to focus our volunteer efforts on Getting Out the Vote, not on maintaining and testing our software platform 
  4. We need to have a sustainable cost-efficient long-term solution that can be easily managed by future generations of DA leaders
  5. As voter registration laws and practices continue to change, we need to be able to stay up-to-date and continually provide new features and services to our voters 


After considerable review of the current status of VFA.org and evaluating the numerous challenges that we face as an organization to keep a major technical service like this, secure, legally compliant, and up-to-date with accurate data for our voters, our ExCom has asked that we consider adopting a new hosted back-end solution for our www.VoteFromAbroad.org voter registration tool.
 
We are aware that some of our volunteers who have been with the organization for many years are personally invested in our existing system and may object to a change.  They built and managed something that has made -- and will continue to make -- a very important contribution to our organization and to overseas voters.  We respect the important contributions they have made to bring us to this point. Looking forward, however, we have an opportunity here to move from the responsibility of maintaining and ensuring the security, stability, and accuracy of voter data in a complex software platform, to adopting a full-featured, professionally developed, and regularly evolving hosted service platform.
 
I was tasked by the ExCom to identify the requirements for fully updating our current site and to again explore the option of working with the Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF).  I did this, and after evaluating the choices, I now believe that our best option for a secure, stable, accurate, up-to-date, and full featured VoteFromAbroad.org voter registration service that will continue to grow our membership is for us to adopt the OVF backend platform.
 
--
     DA will continue to use and promote the www.VoteFromAbroad.org web address as our voter registration site -- this will NOT change!  All DA VFA-related branding, and promotional, and GOTV efforts will continue unchanged.  The site would be branded with our VFA logo and color scheme
 
     Voters coming to the new VoteFromAbroad.org site will have an improved user experience which will include a number of new, and greatly improved user features including:
 

  •      - a My Voter Account feature that will allow voters to save registration data in a personal account, so that they can come back later to complete or update an FPCA request, (we do not have this feature now)
  •      - up-to-date 2014 election year FPCA form with state-specific legally-compliant on-line form completion, (we do not have this feature now)
  •      - a pre-populated FWAB (emergency ballot) request that can be generated from the personal account without re-entering all of FPCA data, 
  •      - candidate look-up tool that will show who the local candidates are for a voter's home district, (we do not have this feature now)


 
The hosted site from OVF, will have accurate and up-to-date local election official (LEO) contact information and FPCA forms.  The LEO contact data is the most accurate available, and is constantly being updated in the OVF system.
 
DA will continue to be able to grow our membership by incorporating voters who choose to "Join Democrats Abroad" as part of the voter registration process -- just like they do now at the end of the on-line form.
 
Our volunteers will be able to focus on finding, motivating, and registering voters, not on correcting the accuracy of LEO data, and the legal compliance of our on-line forms.

Our GOTV volunteers will have Real-Time live access to live on-line voter registration reports to monitor the response to voter outreach initiatives -- we do not have this feature now.
 
OVF is a professional and highly respected non-profit organization in the voting experts community.  OVF has voter registration hosting contracts with nearly 20 US States, voter registration organizations, and campaigns.
 
The OVF platform is a tested and proven solution that is trusted to manage US state voter data for the likes of New York state, Minnesota, the League of Women Voters, and others.  Their reputation depends on the security, reliability, and accuracy of their service. 
 
DA will have contractual guarantees assuring our access to, and the security and confidentiality of data for those who register with the new VoteFromAbroad.org site hosted by OVF.
 
The web-based user interface is created with Responsive Web Design that will adapt to any PC, Tablet, or mobile device.

And, here are a few additional points to address some previous misconceptions regarding the adoption of OVF as a hosted service provider:
     - DA would retain full access to all of the member and voter data and contact details for all users visiting the site
     - DA would be able to export member join data from the OVF platform to our CiviCRM membership database
     - DA would be able to include custom tags and "check-box" features in the site for export to our database
     - DA would be able to customize all text and instructions on the site
     - We would achieve significant savings in volunteer time that would otherwise be required to test and verify FPCA form entry accuracy and system PDF output results
 
 
I encourage Leaders to please review the attached Benefits of OVF Hosted system document for further details on the advantages of adopting this platform.  
 
We welcome any questions and concerns that you may have about this transition and encourage you to review the related resource documents that are being compiled in the Wiki page, and to join our Town Hall discussion on this issue set for:
     Thursday, 29 May at 9 AM EDT via WebEx

Sincerely,
Merrill Oates, IT Liaison, on behalf of the International Executive Committee

Further background resources and info

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