by Jacob Derr & Tony Glosson, Editors

Dr. Paul Herrnson is the director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship and a Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. He is also the principal investigator of a project funded by the Maryland State Board of Elections which is designed to research campaign financce and voting in the state and also to design a method to deliver absentee ballots over the internet. Dr. Herrnson’s scholarship focuses on voting technology and ballot design. He was recently quoted by the New York Times explaining the causes of longer ballots in some states than in others. Dr. Herrnson will be a panelist at Thursday’s Seventh Annual William & Mary Election Law Symposium. In advance of the event, we asked him a few questions about voting technology, now and into the future.

1. In your opinion, what is the single most efficient voting technology in use today?

I don’t think efficiency is the most important characteristic of the voting process. Integrity, security, equal access to the ballot, accessibility, and usability–including the ability to cast a vote as intended without the need of outside assistance–are more important.

That having been said, I think the most efficient voting technology in existence today is an internet-based absentee ballot delivery system. There are variations among these systems. The Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland developed a highly effective system for the State of Maryland that makes voting easy and very efficient. It also makes voting a possibility for citizens located abroad, including military personnel deployed to remote locations where voting was previously impossible.

2. If you could make one universal change to voting technology in the United States today, with the wave of a wand (assuming money was no issue), what would it be?

Just one! I would make sure that there were enough high-quality voting systems available so that every citizen who wished to vote in person either on Election Day or during an early voting period had to wait in line no longer than 30 minutes.

3. It seems like voting technology is all over the place in this country, even though HAVA attempted to address the issue of outdated voting machines back in 2002. Is another piece of federal legislation (and federal dollars) needed again or should we rely on states to address the problem?

The evidence suggests we cannot rely solely on the states. Some states have done an outstanding job, but others have shortcomings in terms of voting machines, poll books, the maintenance of accurate voter rolls, and other administrative matters.


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