Back in 2013, I cheered when mostly bumbling Secretary of State Jason Gant said he was going to spend a $680K federal grant on the iOASIS system to help overseas soldiers vote. Silly me, I assumed the program would work. Intrepid election observer Ken Santema reads the minutes of the last state Board of Elections meeting and discovers iOASIS did not work:
Kea Warne mentioned that the UOCAVA program was put together in 2010 and has been used since. iOASIS, which was created and funded by the $668,831 FVAP grant ran into a bug with security clearances for military personnel trying to use their Common Access Card (CAC) and the iOASIS program. In 2014, only 24 voters were able to use iOASIS which amounted to the per voter expense being very high. All military and overseas citizens can use UOCAVA but just military personnel can use iOASIS. iOASIS does allow military individuals to also register to vote electronically but the UOCAVA system does not include that option. In the future, the Secretary of State’s office will review the cost of this as the $50,000 maintenance fee will need to be paid for as the FVAP grant funds will run out.
Linda Lea Viken asked if we will continue to use UOCAVA and iOASIS. Kea Warne stated yes through the 2016 General Election but after that we will review the costs of the maintenance fee for iOASIS and determine if the expense is justified [South Dakota Board of Elections, draft minutes, 2015.06.15].
Libertarian Santema notes that the UOCAVA system was created for $100,000 and can serve all overseas voters, not just military personnel. UOCAVA preceded iOASIS and served more people. Santema does math on iOASIS—$668,831 divided by 24 voters, darn near $28,000 per vote—and wonders what Gant was thinking:
I find it mind-boggling that SOS Gant spent over half a million dollars to implement a system that doesn’t appear to give a great amount of value over the system that cost under $100,000. I remember at the time thinking this sounded like a great new system for military voting, but I don’t recall it being mentioned that it basically did what the current system already did.
Additionally it was reported in the BOE minutes above that due to bug in the iOASIS system that only 24 active duty military personnel were able to utilize that system during the 2014 election. Given the price of $668,831, I would agree with the statement from those minutes that stated “the per voter expense being very high”. In fact as a taxpayer I wonder if the $668,831 in HAVA funds couldn’t have been better spent in other ways. And I also wonder if South Dakota should continue to use such a single-purpose system that will cost an additional $50,000 in maintenance, when there is a system the state already owns that does basically the same thing without the ongoing maintenance costs [Ken Santema, “Some Interesting News About Military Voting Costs in the SD Board of Election Minutes,” SoDakLiberty, 2015.06.27].
I have no problem spending money to ensure that every South Dakotan can vote. But that doesn’t mean I want to throw money away on redundant, bug-ridden systems. It sounds as if Jason Gant leapt at a chance to wrap himself in the fake “Support the Troops!” hoopla that’s so popular with his party but failed to anticipate problems that resulted in South Dakotans getting little value for Gant’s big spending.