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Colorado First to Provide Mobile-Optimized Voter Registration Site

Colorado may be the first state in the nation to launch a mobile-optimized format for its voter registration website, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

As this year’s presidential election excitement settles, states that offered voter registration and updates online are finding out what worked well and what still needs improvement.

Prior to Colorado's voter registration deadline of Oct. 9 to vote in the Nov. 6 presidential elections, the Secretary of State’s Office – through an extensive ad campaign – encouraged residents to either register online or update their voter registration information through redirects users to the state’s voter information page, and for the first time, it was available through a mobile-optimized version for users to access from their mobile devices. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, between Aug. 31 and Oct. 9, more than 229,000 submissions and updates to existing voter registrations were logged. And Secretary of State Scott Gessler estimated that 20 percent of those total online submissions were sent in via the mobile version of the site.

Andrew Cole, communications and policy adviser for the Secretary of State’s Office, said Colorado may be the first state in the nation to make its state voter registration site available with a mobile-optimized option.

Originally launched in 2010, was previously available solely through a “classic” version – only accessible through laptops and desktops. Colorado brought its statewide voter registration database SCORE online in 2008, which had to be live before could go online, according to Cole. This meant the 2012 election was the first presidential election in which Colorado offfered online voter registration. 

Why did Colorado choose a mobile-optimized website instead of a downloadable app? Because most constituents don’t use the voter information/update site that often, Gessler said, so there isn’t much need to develop an app specifically for the site.  

“This type of activity isn’t something people do on a regular basis,” Gessler said. “They sort of come in once, and they do it, and they leave. So we have mobile-optimized, which I think is the right decision.”

Lessons Learned

As Colorado’s voter registration deadline approached, the Secretary of State’s Office saw an increase in Web traffic to the voter registration website, which temporarily knocked the site offline on registration deadline day. The state increased its computer capacity and server availability to get the site back online. 

Cole said in the final week prior to the registration deadline, the site was averaging 40,000 to 50,000 visits a day, but on deadline day, the site had peak traffic with 162,000 visits. 

“We were tracking it minute by minute how many people were submitting a new registration or a change in their registration, and it was all the way up until 11:59 p.m.," Cole said. "We had 17 people within the last minute who made a submission and would have been counted in that deadline.”

The state did experience some glitches with the mobile-optimized version of the site – for an 11-day period in September, Cole said some of the registrations/updates sent via mobile were not getting sent to the SCORE database. However, information that wasn’t getting through during that time period was later added before the registration deadline.

Despite glitches prior to the registration deadline, however, Gessler said the website was a success overall. Moving forward, the state plans to do a “deep-dive, after-action” review of what worked well on the site and what still needs improvement. 

“We have to make sure our mobile and classic [website versions] run in parallel operations, and we can’t treat them as the same platform,” Gessler said. “That became pretty clear.”

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Sarah Rich is a former staff writer for Government Technology.