Connecting Legislators and Election Officials Around Elections Technology
The next big issue in election administration in the U.S. will revolve around technology: Voting equipment, electronic poll books, election management systems, and other hardware and software designed to serve voters and election administrators.
The issue is heating up because voting machines in jurisdictions throughout the country are approaching the end of their useful lives and will need to be replaced. And yet, the marketplace for new equipment is limited, and often does not meet current expectations. One of the limiting factors is that standard-setting, testing and certification of voting systems at the federal level has not kept up with new technology. Another limiting factor is funding; most existing voting equipment was purchased with federal money, but no additional federal funding is on the horizon.
Legislators create the scaffolding of election policy, including establishing standards for voting equipment. And yet they are rarely experts in the field, and may not understand the difficulties that state and local election officials face in implementing state laws. Conversely, election officials often have a limited view of the broader context of state policy and fiscal realities faced by legislators.
To address rising concerns about "what's next?" or even "what's possible?" NCSL has developed the Elections Technology Project,
What: The Elections Technology Project connects legislators who serve on election committees,legislative staff who deal with elections policy, and state and local election officials to explore technology’s role in running efficient elections
How: In select states, NCSL coordinates a day-long meeting for legislative experts and state and local election administrators to discuss how elections in the state are currently run, and then discuss a course for future decisionmaking.
Why: Legislators play a critical role in crafting policies that address the complexities of election administration. And yet in most states, it is local election administrators who purchase new technologies and equipment, understand the flow of elections work and respond to the needs of voters.The Elections Technology Project assists states in strengthening the key policy link between legislators and election officials, so that voting technology policy development and implementation are seamless.
Expected Results: Lawmakers and administrators will begin to develop a plan for election policy, taking newer technologies into consideration. NCSL prepares a state-specific report outlining what is learned during this day, and put it in a national context. By building a stronger dialogue and partnership between these two key groups, states will be better prepared to:
- Apply evidence-based decision making to the purchase of new voting technology.
- Consider funding options for the replacement of high-priced voting equipment.
- Choose technology appropriate to their state’s circumstances to improve all aspects of election administration.
- Develop best practices for equipment testing, certification and auditing.
- Meet the needs of all voters, including those with specific needs, such as long distance voters and those with disabilities.
This program is provided at no cost to participating states, with generous funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The Future of Voting Conference: In 2015 NCSL will convene a national meeting to bring together legislators, legislative staff and election officials with voting technology and computer security experts, legal experts, advocates, federal representatives and other interested parties. Connecting experts to policymakers will be critical as states move forward in designing and selecting new elections management equipment.
Additional Project Components: Throughout the project, NCSL is developing and distributing research on all topics that touch on elections and technology. Some of these are listed below; others are under development.
Technical Assistance: Throughout the project, NCSL can provide testimony, technical assistance, state-specific research or otherwise respond to the needs of legislatures as they begin to discuss state policy on standards, funding and responsibility for election techology in the future.
Questions? Contact Katy Owens Hubler
NCSL's Elections Technology Resources
For More Information
Contact NCSL's elections staff