Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Secretary of State election results site inaccessible on election night

Last night I, like many other people, hopped on the Secretary of State's election results web site after the polls closed at 8 p.m. to find out what the early vote-by-mail election results would be.  These are the votes normally reported by counties to the Secretary of State as soon as the polls close, and give folks who are watching election results a preview of what's to come over the next hours and days as votes are counted.

But I could not get into the site.  I kept getting a message saying the site was unavailable.  I tried repeatedly over the next few hours with no luck. So I changed CVF's election returns web page to also feature results from the Sacramento Bee, which was providing updated numbers online throughout the night. I tried accessing the site up until 11 p.m. at which point I gave up and called it a night.

Today the Secretary of State's elections results server is operating once again and the Los Angeles Times' Patrick McGreevy reported that the reason it had failed was because traffic to the website was "exponentially higher than what was even projected".  This is surprising to me.  I have been accessing election returns online through the California Secretary of State's web site since 1994, when California became the first state in the nation or world to provide such a service to the public.  Over the many years of presidential elections, special elections, and incredibly high turnout elections such as we saw in November 2008, I have never found the site to be totally inaccessible.  Slow at times, yes.  But never "not available".

For more see excerpts from McGreevy's article below.

The state agency, which has notoriously had problems with its computers, put up an alternative posting of all election results while it tried to work out the problems, according to spokeswoman Nicole Winger.
The state was using a "cloud computing" system in which at least 50 servers outside the Secretary of State’s office were being used to manage the heavy traffic.
"The traffic to the website has been exponentially higher than what was even projected" by the state’s IT experts, she said. "The traffic basically blew up the cloud." She said web traffic at the Secretary of State’s site was higher than experienced during the last presidential election.
Former Rep. Gov. Pete Wilson cited the "crash" of the Secretary of State’s computer site as one reason results were slow in coming in the governor’s race.

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