By Katy Owens-Hubler

A rainy day in Sun Prairie, Wisc., was the backdrop for the latest stop for NCSL’s Elections Technology Project. The project connects state legislators and legislative staff with election officials to get a taste of how elections are run in the state.

Senator Mary Lazich (R) watches Dane County Deputy Clerk Sherri Endres demonstrate a voting machine.Elections in Wisconsin are mostly funded at the local level—through city councils, with or without support from county governments. This means that some village clerks in Wisconsin work from their homes and provide their own office supplies. Others live in areas that don’t have reliable Internet, making it difficult for them to take advantage of technological innovations such as the GAB’s MyVote system allowing voters to change or update their voter registration online.

Representative JoCasta Zamarripa (D)Hermann-Brown has been lucky to have a supportive city council that has allowed her to develop technology to make elections in Sun Prairie more efficient. A prime example is a software tool to permit voters to register at the polling place using a laptop computer. Wisconsin is one of 10 states that permits same-day registration, allowing any qualified resident of the state to go to the polls, register that day, and then vote.

Senator Mark Miller (D)An advantage of having so many local jurisdictions administering elections is that each can experiment with new technology or procedures to improve the voting experience, and then share what they learn with others. The downside is that not all voters in Wisconsin have a similar experience. Voters in urban areas may vote on high-tech machines and voters in a more rural area may feed paper ballots into a padlocked stainless steel milk box.

Representative Kathleen Bernier (R), chair, Assembly Campaign and Elections CommitteeIt’s important to remember, though, that technology is just a tool. No matter how they cast their ballots, what really matters is making sure voters are confident in the result and that the result is accurate.

Katy Owens Hubler is an elections policy specialist at NCSL.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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