Open-source database elected to update Kiwi voters

Data security is essential as the electoral roll stores sensitive information, says open-source consulting firm

The Electoral Enrolment Centre has consolidated electoral rolls on the open-source PostgreSQL database, replacing a group of disparate databases spread around the country.

The updated New Zealand electoral roll management system, dubbed Mike, has been in the works since 2003 and is now in production, replacing a collection of Oracle databases with Visual Basic front-ends.

The migration contract was won by open-source consulting firm Catalyst IT.

Speaking at this year’s Linux and open source conference, held in Sydney recently, Catalyst’s Finlay Thompson said the Electoral Enrolment Centre runs New Zealand’s electoral system and receives and sends a “massive amount of correspondence”, including sending ads to get people to register on the roll.

“More importantly we send out electoral rolls when there is an election and store everyone, about 2.8 million people, who is eligible to vote,” Thompson said.

Thompson said the previous system was a regional set-up and the database was distributed throughout the organisation and was synchronised overnight.

“Data security is essential as the electoral roll stores sensitive information,” he said. “So there are a few people who are not published on the roll [and] people need to know that when they register to vote their details are safe.”

Catalyst had been using PostgreSQL to manage the .nz domain and recommended it for the electoral roll.

The system now consists of two clusters, in Auckland and Wellington, for disaster recovery, with four databases in each — one master and three slaves.

“This is where PostgreSQL pays off,” Thompson said. “In the development environment we have seven database instances running and if we had to pay, or even think about, licence fees, it would be an impediment.” Some 50GB of data is housed in the system, which is running Debian GNU/Linux on AMD Opteron servers, with 8GB of RAM.

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