Close Close Comment Creative Commons Donate Email Add Email Facebook Instagram Mastodon Facebook Messenger Mobile Nav Menu Podcast Print RSS Search Secure Twitter WhatsApp YouTube

One Reason U.S. Election Administration is so Complex

One of the reasons that election administration in the U.S. is so complex and, at times, chaotic, is that the system was designed to be decentralized. The following is from a committee report for the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

>The dispersal of responsibility for election administration has made it impossible for a single centrally controlled authority to dictate how elections will be run, and thereby be able to control the outcome. This leaves the power and responsibility for running elections where it should be, in the hands of the citizens of this country. Local control has the further added benefit of allowing for flexibility, so that local authorities can tailor their procedures to meet the demands of disparate and unique communities. Further by leaving the responsibility for election administration in the hands of local authorities, if a problem arises, the citizens who live within their jurisdictions know whom to hold accountable. The local authorities who bear the responsibility cannot now, and should not in the future be able to, point the finger of blame at some distant, unaccountable, centralized bureaucracy.

That quote is from a letter send last week by congressional leaders urging states to be vigilant about hackers attacking election systems

Portrait of Scott Klein

Scott Klein

Scott Klein was a deputy managing editor. He led the teams at ProPublica that work at the intersection of journalism and technology.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

Questions? Read our FAQ.

Follow Electionland


and 150+ local and national newsrooms. Sign up to become a partner here.

Technical Partners

More Election Tools

The User’s Guide to Democracy

Congress works for you. Here’s how to be a better boss.


See what your representatives in Congress say and do.

ProPublica on IFTTT

Do more with ProPublica data and automated notifications.

Latest Stories from ProPublica

Current site Current page