State government IT is shaping up to be a key issue for the gubernatorial race in Idaho, where Democratic candidate Paulette Jordan has seized on continued service outages in the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles offices caused by software glitches.
Jordan criticized the current administration led by Republican Gov. Butch Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little this weekend and called the $10.8 million contract with Netherlands-based firm Gemalto to provide the DMV software a “boondoggle that is failing our state.”
Jordan, who would become the first Native American governor in United States history if elected, faces Little in the November election. Otter, who does not face term limits in Idaho, will not seek reelection at the end of his third term as governor.
Jordan’s criticism of the software operated by the Idaho Transportation Department follows several weeks of service issues and outages that led DMV offices to close. The most recent was announced Aug. 27 after what the state described as a “multi-stage outage” on the vendor’s side affecting both Idaho and Colorado.
State officials said last week they were working closely with the vendor to resolve the issue. On the morning of Aug. 28 ITD reported on Twitter that service was back online. But within a few hours, ITD reported that service was again offline and referred the public to local sheriff’s offices, which oversee the DMV offices. Unusually, Idaho state law holds that county sheriffs are responsible for providing driver’s license services.
Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue wrote the governor last month to say he was “furious” about the money being spent on systems that are “poorly designed and implemented without the benefit of beta testing sites to address the potential and real issues with these critically important systems.”
“The vast majority of the sheriffs in the state of Idaho feel that it is time for this state to consider removing driver’s license as a function of the sheriff and move it squarely to ITD where it belongs,” Donahue’s letter reads. “We are only one of a few states where the sheriff is legally mandated to perform this function.”
Other sheriffs agreed, and blamed the department responsible for overseeing the technology.
“ITD has been brutal to work with and has no sense of the impact on the Sheriff’s Office or our citizens,” Ada County Sheriff Steve Bartlett said. “They need an overhaul in a major way with their leadership and supervision. Idaho citizens deserve far better service,”
At a press conference on Aug. 28, DMV Administrator Alberto Gonzalez said, “The level of service that has been affecting our citizens, the sheriff’s offices, their staff and ITD is completely unacceptable. We have been working with our vendor very patiently for quite some time. But the outages continue.”
The governor’s office also convened a working group, consisting of representatives from the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association, the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association, Idaho State Police, Idaho Association of Counties, the Idaho Transportation Department and other stakeholders, to find both immediate and long-term solutions.
“This is currently one of the highest priorities in state government,” Otter said in a press release.
Many counties were left processing transactions by hand until the system was put back online on Aug. 30.
The state still has not reported what exactly caused the outage or if the issue has been completely resolved. Neither the governor’s office nor Gemalto were available to comment on the source of the outage for this story.
The state’s five-year Gemalto deal expires in 2021.