A consequence of our federalist system and tradition is that even though U.S. elections are organized around a national hierarchy, they are executed in a highly decentralized manner, with each state responsible for setting its own standards and procedures for registering voters, casting ballots, and counting votes. The federal government sets broad standards for such issues as accessibility but has historically been largely uninvolved in day-to- day election operations. In most states, the majority of election management functions are delegated to local county and town governments, which are responsible for registering voters, procuring voting equipment, creating ballots, setting up and managing local polling places, counting votes, and reporting the results of each contest. Thousands of individual local election offices shoulder the burden of managing and securing the voting process for most of the American electorate.
Consequently, elections in the United States are among the most operationally and logistically complex in the world, and information technology plays an essential role in overcoming that complexity. Many jurisdictions have large numbers of geographically dispersed voters, and most elections involve multiple ballot contests and referenda. Computers and software enable our election process by managing voter registration records, defining ballots, provisioning voting machines, tallying and reporting results, and controlling electronic voting machines used at polling places.1