By Amanda Buchanan
Election modernization—it’s a term we hear often in the elections community.
To some it signals necessary reforms and progress. To others it’s a pipe dream without the funding to follow.
Commissioner Matt Masterson’s take on election modernization hinges on a collaborative effort between legislators and state and local election officials to upgrade and replace voting equipment and enhance the efficiency of elections through improved data sharing. Here’s some of what the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s vice chair had to say on 2017 legislative priorities in the January issue of The Canvass (read the full excerpt in the online version).
"It is my hope that the 2017 legislative session is an opportunity for legislators and election officials to engage in a much needed discussion regarding election modernization. The top priority should be to develop a legislative plan for upgrades to and replacement of voting technology.
"Legislators should engage their election officials to understand the current state of the technology used in their jurisdiction; urgent needs vs. long term needs; and develop short and long term plans for the purchase, maintenance and replacement of these systems moving forward, just as they budget for other areas of state IT infrastructure. This type of plan will ensure a secure, accurate and accessible election process for all voters moving forward.
"As legislators work to address the technology needs of election officials in their state they can also work to improve the efficiency of the election process. A well designed legislative plan for elections created in concert with election officials can lead to long term cost savings. For instance, increased data sharing both within the state and across states can improve the accuracy and currency of the voter registration rolls. Data from various state agencies, like motor vehicles and public assistance offices, can and should be shared efficiently with election officials. Legislators should understand how the data exchange process works and how it can be improved. Improved data sharing done in concert with online voter registration and e-pollbook deployment leads to improved services for voters while saving money at the state and local level.
"The good news is that legislators don’t need to start from square one. At the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) one of our areas of focus this year is to provide information to stakeholders to help them procure and implement new election technology. Currently we have a variety of resources to help posted on our webpage www.eac.gov. These include best practices, checklists and requests for purchase (RFP’s) for a variety of election technologies. I encourage anyone working on these issues to visit our webpage and reach out to us for help as they move forward creating a comprehensive plan to upgrade their election system."
For more information about elections technology topics, visit NCSL’s webpages on Elections Technology Toolkit, e-pollbooks, funding elections technology and other publications from our elections technology project and The Canvass. Don’t forget to subscribe by sending an email to TheCanvass@ncsl.org.
Amanda Buchanan is a policy specialist in NCSL’s Election Policy Center.