Digital Communities

Marin County, Calif., Faults Old Code, Heavy Traffic and More for Lack of Election Night Web Results

The Registrar of Voters’ website remained inaccessible most of the night.

by Richard Halstead, The Marin Independent Journal / August 8, 2018

(TNS) — Old code, software problems and server configuration in Marin County, Calif., combined with heavy traffic, caused the blooper that made it impossible for the public to view results on election night June 5, county officials said this week.

“We determined that it was a combination of three things,” said Liza Lowery Massey, director of Marin County’s Department of Information Services and Technology.

The Registrar of Voters’ website, which had been redesigned to feature more graphs and other visual elements to make the data more accessible to the general public, remained inaccessible most of the night.

Specifically, Massey said there was some antiquated legacy software code in some of the county’s web pages.

“It didn’t hurt us when we were on an older platform,” Massey said, “but think about moving old code onto a new platform. It caused some issues.”

She said that older code has now been removed.

Massey said server configuration also was a problem.

“The configuration issue was exacerbated by the high number of people going to the website on election night,” Massey said. “It had not been an issue before we had that load.”

She said the county’s computer system has been reworked to remove that roadblock.

Also to blame for the snafu was the foundational software that underlies all of the county’s websites. This software was upgraded earlier this year, before Massey began working for the county at the beginning of May.

“We found some issues that were in that setup that didn’t become so apparent until the election-night traffic load,” Massey said.

Those issues have also been dealt with. Massey said the new graphics features that were added to the Registrar of Voters’ website didn’t appear to play a significant role in the crash.

The county is stress testing the system to ensure there won’t be a repeat performance during the Nov. 6 election. It purchased a tool to do such stress tests after the June 5 election.

“We are actually stress testing it beyond what elections would do,” Massey said, “and the results are all coming back great.”

Massey said the stress tests are being done quarterly and before any expected surge in traffic.

“We went through the Marin County Fair, which doesn’t equal elections but does cause a surge, and it went fine,” she said.

The county also is preparing a plan B for the next election just in case.

“We’ll be rolling out a separate website, very basic, that is just going to show election coverage,” Massey said. “If there is any issue on the primary website, we will be able to automatically post the data to the backup.”

Marin County Registrar of Voters Lynda Roberts said, “I am confident they have examined the problem thoroughly, and I think we’ll be just fine for November.”

Roberts said she may forgo some of the extra graphics attempted during the June 5 election.

“We just want to make sure that the data is posted on election night,” Roberts said. “We’re going to make sure we stick with what works.”

©2018 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.