Overseas Voting Initiative Publishes Report on FVAP's Data Migration Tool

The Council of State Government's (CSG) Overseas Voting Initiative recently released its report on the Federal Voting Assistance Program's (FVAP) Data Migration Tool. The report describes the creation of the DMT by FVAP, in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The purpose of the DMT is to simplify the data exchange process involving State and local election officials delivering blank ballots to military and overseas voters registered to vote in states throughout the nation.

FVAP works to ensure military service members, their eligible family members and overseas citizens are aware of their right to vote and have the tools and resources to successfully do so from anywhere in the world. In response to ongoing concerns about the obstacles military and overseas citizens face when trying to vote absentee, Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act in 2009, which included granting authority to FVAP to conduct various pilot programs to test new technologies that would aid the voting process.

Pursuant to the MOVE Act's charge, FVAP in 2010 implemented an Electronic Voting Support Wizard (EVSW) which explored the practical use of technology to streamline the voting process and to assist local election officials in each State in offering electronic ballots to overseas voters. The implementation of the EVSW exposed the need to simplify the data exchange process involved in the overseas voting process and to find a sustainable tool that could be used in future elections.

In 2014, FVAP and NIST engaged in the development effort to build a prototype of such a tool, which yielded the initial DMT prototype to address some of the underlying data exchange complexities. The resulting DMT allows users, whether they are local election officials or members of stakeholder organizations with a focus on elections, to import data in a specific format. The DMT, and the underlying problem it intended to address, represents a starting point for NIST and the elections community in developing a new election technological system that will be able to process and transform existing critical election data that can then finally be published and consumed by the general public.

The ability to exchange data between commercial systems is a challenge. Since 2014, CSG and FVAP have partnered to research data standardization as part of the FVAP-CSG cooperative agreement that formed the CSG Overseas Voting Initiative to improve the voting process for military and overseas citizens.

"The development of the DMT, while still a prototype, demonstrates a conceptual approach to the seamless exchange of election data," FVAP Director David Beirne said. "In this instance, our focus is on ballot data, but I'm confident this type of approach can pay dividends for other segments of election administration in the future."

One of the key issues is the challenge of importing candidate- and district-level election data into a Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act tailored system since many commercial election systems prevent access to certain types of data that are needed to generate an electronic ballot. The DMT allows users to import data in a specific format and export the data into a common data format.

"We're pleased to have provided this DMT report in order to share an external perspective on this tool's design and its suggested way forward," CSG Overseas Voting Initiative Director Kamanzi Kalisa said.

The Data Migration Tool report is available at www.csg.org/OVI/documents/data_migration_online.pdf.

Additional information about the CSG Overseas Voting Initiative can be found at www.csg.org/ovi.

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Federal Voting Assistance Program
The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) is a Department of Defense (DoD) organization that works to ensure Service members, their eligible family members, and overseas citizens are aware of their right to vote and have the tools and resources to successfully do so - from anywhere in the world.

FVAP assists voters through partnerships with the Military Services, Department of State, Department of Justice, and election officials from 50 States, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. State and local governments administer U.S. elections, including those for federal offices. FVAP supports State and local election officials by providing absentee voting information, materials, training and guidance.

Voters can contact FVAP's call center at 1-800-438-VOTE (8683), DSN 425-1584 or at vote@fvap.gov. Toll-free phone numbers from 67 countries are listed at FVAP.gov. Find FVAP on Facebook at facebook.com/DoDFVAP and follow @FVAP on Twitter.