Engaging in Democracy
Registering to vote is the first step for voters to engage in our democracy. The systems election officials use to process and manage voter registrations, such as voter registration databases, online voter registration portals, and electronic poll books (e-poll books), are critical pieces of states’ election infrastructure.
Indeed, voter registration databases serve as the backbone for election operations. Not only do they produce the list of eligible voters used in polling stations on Election Day, but they are also essential to voting-by-mail and ballot creation. Voter registration data also often drives resource allocation decisions, such as assigning poll workers and voting equipment to polling places.
Given this importance and the heightened cybersecurity concerns raised by the 2016 elections, election officials across the country have been taking additional steps to safeguard and improve their voter registration systems. For example, 29 states are using part of their 2018 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds to strengthen their voter registration systems, representing nearly 14 percent of all 2018 HAVA funds. To better prevent, detect and respond to potential cyber threats, election officials are conducting penetration testing on their systems, improving access controls and data backup procedures, and adopting multi-factor authentication, along with applying other cybersecurity best practices.
In an increasing number of jurisdictions -- nearly 18 percent in 2016, according to Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) data -- use e-poll books at polling stations on Election Day. While adopters often point to numerous benefits, such as speeding up processing of voters and enhanced ability to redirect voters who arrive at the incorrect polling place, e-poll books present additional cybersecurity challenges. Just as election officials are taking steps to strengthen their voter registration databases, they are also working to secure their e-poll books and ensure that traditional paper poll books and backup procedures are in place.
This week, we are going to explore the efforts of four states: North Carolina, Oklahoma, Washington and Rhode Island, to see what they are doing to ensure voter registration is safe, secure and protected.
Register to Vote
Are you one of the estimated 22 percent of eligible voters who are not registered? National Voter Registration Day was September 25th, but you still have time to register before the November 6th elections. The deadline to register to vote for the midterms is as early as October 7th in some states. Voter registration deadlines and procedures vary by state so check the EAC website for information on how you can register and vote in your state. Even if you know you are registered, it’s always a good idea to check your voter registration to make sure all of your information is still accurate. If you have recently moved or changed your name, you’ll want to update your voter registration. Once you are registered, make sure you have your plan in place; determine whether you need an absentee ballot; if you plan to vote early or if you intend to go to the polls on November 6th. Then mark your calendar so you don’t forget and VOTE!!
Want to Engage More in our Democracy?
Every state is always looking for people to serve as poll workers. I have been a poll worker for the past two elections in Montgomery County, Maryland. I learned a lot about the election process, met some great volunteers, engaged with my neighbors as they voted and felt a great sense of purpose and patriotism throughout the day. As a poll worker, you are playing a vital role in the workings of our democracy. You don’t need any specific expertise because your local election office will train you in the process. There is still time to sign up in most parts of the country. Find out how to volunteer.