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How voting works

In the United States, voting is a local issue. The Federal government certainly

has a lot of say about voting through the Federal Election Commission, but

in the end, its state and local officials who administer elections. In most

states, the secretary of state's office runs an elections office that sets rules and

administers statewide elections.

The actual elections themselves are usually the purview of the county clerk.

Moreover, counties and municipalities bear the majority of the cost of

managing elections. In 2000, the total county election expenditures were

estimated at over $1 billion, or about $10 per voter.

Voting is more complicated than simply tallying votes. In fact, most of the

work in an election occurs long before the voter ever steps into the booth.

Voter registration requires large databases of voters, their addresses and

geographic calculation of precinct and district information. Ballot preparation


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is a long process that is complicated by myriad rules and regulations. The

election itself must be administered, usually with the help of a large,

volunteer workforce that gets to practice about once per year. All of these

activities, in addition to vote tallying, are part of a voting system.

After the election of 2000, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act

(HAVA). The act changes the voter registration system, requires that all

punch card systems be replaced, and calls for electronic voting methods that

will enable disabled citizens to vote without assistance. These mandates and

some Federal money have resulted in a large-scale replacement of old voting

systems. HAVA also increased the role that the Federal Elections

Commission plays in state and county administered elections.




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