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Research Report

The Machinery of Democracy

Published: October 10, 2006

This report is the final product of the first comprehensive, empirical analysis of electronic voting systems in the United States. It comes after nearly two years of study with many of the nations leading academics, election officials, economists, and security, usability and accessibility experts.

Up until this point, there has been surprisingly little empirical study of voting systems in the areas of security, accessibility, usability, and cost. The result is that jurisdictions make purchasing decisions and adopt laws and procedures that have little to do with their overall goals.

The Brennan Center analysis finds that there is not yet any perfect voting system or set of procedures. One system might be more affordable, but less accessible to members of the disabled community; certain election procedures might make the systems easier to use, but they compromise security. Election officials and community members should be aware of the trade-offs when choosing one voting system or set of procedures over another, and they should know how to improve the system they choose.

Included in this full report is an executive summary of the Brennan Centers analysis of voting system securityvoting system usability, as well as voting system accessibility and cost.

The Brennan Center analysis of cost is in part based upon a review of voting system contracts provided by jurisdictions around the country and a cost calculator [no longer available]. The cost calculator and contracts should assist jurisdictions in determining the initial on ongoing costs of various voting systems.

Click here to download PDF of complete report

About the Project Manager

Lawrence Norden is the project director for the Voting Technology Assessment Project. As Counsel at the Brennan Center, Mr. Norden works in the areas of voting systems, voting rights and government accountability. In addition to these responsibilities, he edits and writes for the Brennan Center’s blog on New York State, ReformNY. Mr. Norden is the lead author of author of The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World (Academy Chicago Press) and a contributor to the Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties (Routledge 2007). He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and New York University School of Law. Before joining the Brennan Center, Mr. Norden was in private practice, concentrating in commerical litigation, technology and bankruptcy law.