By Katy Owens Hubler
NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting team was in Williamsburg, Va., last week for the Future of Elections: Technology Policy and Funding conference.
The topic was voting technology, and was a follow-up of sorts to the 2015 conference on Policy and Elections Technology in Santa Fe, N.M. The first conference focused attention on the fact that the nation’s voting machines are aging. Two years later, old voting machines are a well-known problem, and many sessions in Williamsburg focused more on what the future holds.
(From left, Amber McReynolds, director of elections in Denver; Dean Logan, county clerk and recorder in Los Angeles; Noah Praetz from Cook County and Monica Crane Childers, from Democracy Works. Photo by New Jersey legislative staffer Frank Parisi.)
The Thursday session on Election Technology Innovation looked forward, and several themes emerged:
- Improving the voter experience. Panelists discussed innovations in the field of elections technology as being driven by a desire to improve the customer (in this case voter) experience. Denver and Los Angeles Counties have helped move the field of election technology forward by first asking: what do voters want?
- Harnessing technology that’s already available in new ways. Cook County, Ill. (Chicago), for example, uses Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping technology already owned by the county to examine lines at early voting sites and inform voters of sites with shorter lines.
- Maintaining flexibility in policy. Panelists agreed that one of the ways policymakers can help to encourage innovation is by allowing flexibility. Policy should assist the election process to be agile to allow for changes in technology and voter behavior.
Resources are available for both the 2015 conference and this year’s conference. One of our innovations this year was to encourage an ongoing Twitter conversation, with lots of useful nuggets, at #NCSLelections.
Katy Owens Hubler is a former member of NCSL’s elections team and currently consults for NCSL.