“Voting system” is a term that is not interchangeable with the term “election system.”
The voting system – the hardware and software used for election preparation, vote capture, results tabulation and reporting and post-election audits – is a subset of the election system. The election system encompasses a broader spectrum of election activities, including voter registration, election night reporting and more.
The full “election system” is a broad lineup of systems managed by a diverse group of election professionals from a variety of vendors, agencies, departments and functions. These elements work together to facilitate elections from the point of registering voters and candidates all the way through to reporting of results on election night. It is important to reinforce the proper terminology to avoid inadvertently confusing or misleading the public.
As shown in the following diagram, voting system functions are offline (not connected to the internet) and are separated from other functions within the election system by what is called an “air gap.” This separation limits access to the voting system and protects system security.
Voter Registration/Validation and other functions (online) – this portion of the election system includes tools and technology used to:
- Register voters
- Upload and maintain voter registration data in a statewide database
- Validate voter eligibility/registration before providing a ballot
- Manage additional activities such as candidate filing
Voting System (offline) – this portion of the election system is separated from other components by an “air gap,” preventing network or internet access. The voting system is the technology used to:
- Prepare the setup of the election and produce ballots
- Record the voter’s choices
- Resolve voter intent issues
- Tabulate and report election results
- Conduct post-election audits to validate election results
Election Night Reporting and other functions (online) – this portion of the election system includes the technology used to share the election results with external reporting outlets (e.g., jurisdiction websites, state results reporting websites, news outlets, etc.).