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Elections Q&As for Lawmakers: How Does Technology Shape the Voting Experience?

Technology is interwoven into the voting experience, leading to enhancements—but also complications—in the modern voter's journey.

By Lesley Kennedy  |  February 29, 2024

About this series: NCSL hosted legislators and legislative staff in December 2023 to answer common questions surrounding election processes and options, with an eye toward bill drafting in 2024 and beyond. Experts delved into topics ranging from absentee and mail voting and the role of poll watchers to technology and maintaining clean voter rolls. State Legislatures News broke down the questions and answers to help inform lawmakers on the intricacies of elections. Check Elections Q&As for Lawmakers often for more information.

The Expert: Veronica Degraffenreid, senior manager of strategic partnerships, Brennan Center for Justice

In an era where technology is interwoven into nearly every aspect of life, the voting experience is no exception. However, Degraffenreid says, technology is not just enhancing—but also complicating—the modern voter's journey.

"The voter experience is really hinged on the use of technology in various jurisdictions," she says. From online registration to locating polling places, checking voter history, and even viewing election results, technology has infused itself into every step of the electoral process.

There’s been an enormous transformation when it comes to a voter's interaction with technology, she adds, from the days of ledger books to the current digital landscape.

Top Two Takeaways

  • The voter experience today is highly dependent on a complex system of interrelated technologies that manage everything from voter registration to the casting and counting of ballots, as well as post-election processes.
  • The integrity and success of the voting process rely on resilient election systems with built-in redundancies, comprehensive election security measures, and well-trained, adequately funded election professionals.

The shift to digital has been rapid and comprehensive, according to Degraffenreid, who previously served as acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth and as director of election operations for the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

“The voter registration database, a technology introduced just 20 years ago, is now central to the election process, affecting everything from ballot issuance to district assignments and interfacing with various agencies,” she says.

Degraffenreid also points to the role of election technology, such as e-poll books and voting equipment, as well as post-election processes, where technology plays a critical part in ballot adjudication and certification.

"The key takeaway is that the voter experience is truly based on a system of systems," she says, stressing the importance of resilience and built-in redundancies in these systems to ensure a positive experience for voters.

Election security is another critical aspect, Degraffenreid notes. Since the designation of elections as critical infrastructure in 2016, ensuring the security and integrity of the technological systems has become paramount.

And, she adds, it’s essential for personnel to undergo continuous training and for states to receive funding for election officials to maintain, protect and improve our election systems.

"One in five election officials, by the 2024 election, will be conducting their first presidential election," she says, citing a statistic from the Brennan Center for Justice and underscoring her message. “I urge policymakers and funders to recognize the complexities of election administration, to support ongoing efforts for improvement, and to ensure that we get this right, thereby bolstering public confidence in the democratic process.”

Lesley Kennedy is NCSL’s director of publishing and digital content.

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