Florida CIO Takes Election to the Cloud

On election night, as the rest of us again wondered what was going wrong in Florida, the CIO of Florida's Department of State had a different perspective: He was bearing witness to the successful culmination of 17 months of hard work.

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Thu, November 15, 2012

CIO — Last week during the 2012 U.S. presidential election, interested parties across the country and around the world again found themselves wondering, "What's going on in Florida?"

People in the Sunshine State stood in line for hours to exercise their franchise, in some cases six hours or more after the polls had officially closed. Numerous causes have been cited, from a shortened early voting period to a 10-page-long ballot with 11 state constitutional amendment questions to massive voter turnout and a large number of absentee ballots. Whatever the reason, it was days before anyone could project the winners in the state, and the results won't be officially certified until Nov. 20.

But while everyone else was wondering how Florida had managed to make itself a spectacle again, Larry Aultman, CIO of the Florida Department of State, and his team were witnessing success after 17 months of hard work.

"From my point of view, it was kind of boring," Aultman says. "We had the whole staff on hand, but we didn't have any failures. I was very pleased with the way the election ran from a technical standpoint. I don't make the votes, I just count them."

IT Breaks Down Silos

Fresh from a nearly 16-year stint as the president and CEO of financial services provider BizBanc, Aultman took on the mantle of CIO of the Florida Department of State in June 2011 with a broad mandate to overhaul IT. At the time, the department consisted of the Office of the Secretary and five divisions: the Division of Corporations, Division of Cultural Affairs, Division of Elections, Division of Historical Resources and Division of Library and Information Services. Each division had its own IT staff.

Aultman's task was to break down those silos and build a new division, the Division of Administrative Services, which would provide IT to the other five divisions.

"The first thing I did was to consolidate all five divisions into a single division so I could get my hands on what was going on and so I could figure out what kind of talent we had, what projects were in the work, that sort of thing," Aultman says, noting that he came in at the end of three years of compounded budget cuts and staff reductions. "We were really feeling the strain."

At the same time, he had 17 months to overhaul the Florida Voter Registration System, the electronic repository of all registered voters in the state. The system is also responsible for collecting all election data as it comes in from the counties. Aultman notes that Florida law requires the counties to provide the Department of State's Division of Elections with election data as it occurs, which is then presented to the public in real time through the Florida Election Watch website.

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