The NCSL Blog


By Wendy Underhill and Katy Owens Hubler

New Mexico did it. Maryland’s doing it. Colorado’s making the move. North Dakota and Rhode Island are getting close. At NCSL we think that when three states do something, it’s a trend—and this is five states and counting!

Wooden ballot boxWhat is it these states are doing? They’re thinking about elections technology—who is responsible for choosing it, what criteria should it meet, who will pay for it, and even what we mean when we say “elections technology.”

Of course in the old days, “elections technology” meant cutting a hole in a 5-gallon milk can so ballots could be dropped in. Then we went through the phase when we talked about “voting machines,” starting with lever machines. Next came electronic voting machines, and optical scanners that record votes marked on paper ballots. 

And now? While there are new systems for casting and recording votes coming to jurisdictions throughout the nation, the one overriding change is that “elections technology” includes a lot more than the equipment on which votes are cast or counted. It now means online voter registration, electronic poll books, ballot on demand printers, election night reporting systems, and the always-critical upgrades to statewide voter registration databases.

Voting machine circa 1971; credit Seattle municipal archivesNCSL tries to see trends when they are just developing—and elections technology is one of those. If you’re finding yourself interested in all the IT demands of running elections, you might start by checking out NCSL’s Elections Technology Toolkit.  Or looking at our Elections 2020 project. Or just contact us.

Wendy Underhill is NCSL’s program director for elections and redistricting. Katy Owens Hubler is NCSL’s expert on elections technology.

Email Wendy.


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About the NCSL Blog

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.