NCSL NewsNCSL and MacArthur Foundation Team Up on Election Technology

Project will connect state legislators and elections officials to explore how technology can improve the election process

DENVER—Making the most of technology to run efficient elections is the goal of a new partnership between the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The foundation awarded $300,000 to fund the two-year project, beginning this fall, which will connect members of legislative election committees and their staff with state and local election officials in selected states. These teams will explore technology’s role in running good elections, from pre-Election Day voter registration through post-election audits.

The project’s first steps will be to identify states to participate and to outline the “known world” of technology options related to elections. In the second phase, all stakeholders around the nation will come together in a “summit” on elections technology.

“NCSL and MacArthur are teaming up to address an issue that matters in every jurisdiction in the nation,” said Wendy Underhill, program manager for NCSL’s elections team. “Virtually every piece of voting equipment in America will have come to the end of its useful life and will need to be replaced before the 2016 presidential election. That’s a daunting prospect, but by bringing together lawmakers, elections officials and technology experts, we believe we can find multiple solutions to improve the elections process.”

Voting technology is quickly evolving from hardware-based to software-based, but no one yet knows exactly what this will l look like. By providing a platform for legislators to collaborate with state and local elections officials to share ideas, projects and concepts, best practices and policies will emerge, and 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.
  • Adopt best practices for equipment testing, storage and auditing.
  • Meet the needs of all voters, including those with specific needs, such as long distance voters and those with disabilities.

The grant to NCSL is part of a larger, $1.2 million effort by the MacArthur Foundation to strengthen American democracy by sharing information and researching the role of money in politics, as well as improving election administration.

For more information about the partnership, contact Wendy Underhill at 303-364-7700.

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. More information is at www.macfound.org.