The State and Local Role in Election Administration: Duties and Structures

The State and Local Role in Election Administration: Duties and Structures. Congressional Research Service. Karen L. Shanton. March 4, 2019

The administration of elections in the United States is highly decentralized. Elections are primarily administered by thousands of state and local systems rather than a single, unified national system.

States and localities share responsibility for most election administration duties. Exactly how responsibilities are assigned at the state and local levels varies both between and within states, but there are some general patterns in the distribution of duties. States typically have primary responsibility for making decisions about the rules of elections (policymaking). Localities typically have primary responsibility for conducting elections in accordance with those rules (implementation). Localities, with varying contributions from states, typically also have primary responsibility for paying for the activities and resources required to conduct elections (funding).

[PDF format, 22 pages].


Federal Role in Voter Registration: The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Subsequent Developments

Federal Role in Voter Registration: The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Subsequent Developments. Congressional Research Service. Sarah J. Eckman. January 23, 2019

Historically, most aspects of election administration have been left to state and local governments, resulting in a variety of practices across jurisdictions with respect to voter registration. States can vary on a number of elements of the voter registration process, including whether or not to require voter registration; where or when voter registration occurs; and how voters may be removed from registration lists. The right of citizens to vote, however, is presented in the U.S. Constitution in the 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments. Beginning with the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965, Congress has sometimes passed legislation requiring certain uniform practices for federal elections, intended to prevent any state policies that may result in the disenfranchisement of eligible voters. The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) was enacted in 1993 and set forth a number of voter registration requirements for states to follow regarding voter registration processes for federal elections.

[PDF format, 35 pages].

Why rural America needs cities

Why rural America needs cities. Brookings Institution. Nathan Arnosti and Amy Liu. November 30, 2018

The 2018 midterm elections affirmed that the deep geographic divides within the United States are here to stay. As they did in 2016, Americans living in rural areas overwhelmingly backed Republican candidates, fueled in part by the sense that the American economy is leaving them behind. The plight of rural America, and ideas for its economic revival, continues to animate policy discussions, including among Democrats concerned about their ability to appeal to blue-collar voters. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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The National Popular Vote (NPV) Initiative: Direct Election of the President by Interstate Compact

The National Popular Vote (NPV) Initiative: Direct Election of the President by Interstate Compact.  Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Thomas H. Neale, Andrew Nolan. October 25, 2018

 The National Popular Vote (NPV) initiative proposes an agreement among the states, an interstate compact that would effectively achieve direct popular election of the President and Vice President without a constitutional amendment. It relies on the Constitution’s grant of authority to the states in Article II, Section 1 to appoint presidential electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct…. ” Any state that joins the NPV compact pledges to award all its electoral votes to the presidential ticket that wins the most popular votes nationwide, regardless of who wins in that particular state. The number of electoral votes won by the national popular vote winners would depend on the number of electoral votes controlled by NPV member states. The compact would, however, come into effect only if its success has been assured; that is, only if states controlling a majority of electoral votes (270 or more) join the compact. Recent action by the Connecticut legislature to join the compact has generated renewed interest in the NPV initiative. At the time of this writing, 11 states and the District of Columbia, which jointly control 172 electoral votes, have joined the compact.

 [PDF format, 31 pages].

2018 Midterm Voters: Issues and Political Values

2018 Midterm Voters: Issues and Political Values. Pew Research Center, October 4, 2018.

 Supporters of Republican and Democratic candidates in the upcoming congressional election are deeply divided over the government’s role in ensuring health care, the fairness of the nation’s economic system and views of racial equality in the United States. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 21 pages].

Federal Role in U.S. Campaigns and Elections: An Overview

Federal Role in U.S. Campaigns and Elections: An Overview.  Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. R. Sam Garrett. September 4, 2018

 Conventional wisdom holds that the federal government plays relatively little role in U.S. campaigns and elections. Although states retain authority for most aspects of election administration, a closer look reveals that the federal government also has steadily increased its presence in campaigns and elections in the past 50 years. Altogether, dozens of congressional committees and federal agencies could be involved in federal elections under current law. 

 [PDF format, 43 pages].

Blockchains Will Change the Way the World Votes

Blockchains Will Change the Way the World Votes. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Phillip Meylan, Daniel F. Runde. January 26, 2018

 Amid the clamor around bitcoin’s ascendant (now descendant) value, the potential of a far greater contributor to society has been clouded. Bitcoin—which has in recent months been both the godsend and the bane of speculative investors around the world—is made possible by its underlying blockchain technology. Lauded as a technological innovation on the same magnitude as the internet, blockchains at their simplest are diffuse electronic ledgers that garner efficiency, transparency, and remarkable security through a decentralized structure. You don’t have to understand everything about the underlying technology to see how such a system could have a significant impact on our lives.

Blockchains are now being adopted globally for things as diverse as smart contracts, property rights, health care, and humanitarian assistance. But, blockchains also have enormous potential to revolutionize the way elections are conducted. If implemented correctly, such systems could mobilize new electorates, increase voter participation, reduce election violence, and make elections more secure and reliable than ever before. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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