How We Vote

Innovation in American Elections

Kathleen Hale and Mitchell Brown

"[A] clear and thorough overview of the very complicated election architecture."
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The idea of voting is simple, but the administration of elections in ways that ensure access and integrity is complex.

In How We Vote, Kathleen Hale and Mitchell Brown explore what is at the heart of our democracy: how elections are run. Election administration determines how ballots are cast and counted, and how jurisdictions try to innovate while also protecting the security of the voting process, as well as how election officials work.

Election officials must work in a difficult intergovernmental environment of constant change and intense partisanship. Voting practices and funding vary from state to state, and multiple government agencies, the judicial system, voting equipment vendors, nonprofit groups, and citizen activists also influence practices and limit change. Despite real challenges and pessimistic media assessments, Hale and Brown demonstrate that election officials are largely successful in their work to facilitate, protect, and evolve the voting process.

Using original data gathered from state and local election officials and policymakers across the United States, Hale and Brown analyze innovations in voter registration, voting options, voter convenience, support for voting in languages other than English, the integrity of the voting process, and voting system technology. The result is a fascinating picture of how we vote now and will vote in the future.

Table of Contents


1. The Federal System and the Politics of Election Administration

2. Innovation in Complex Systems

3. Innovations in Administering Voter Registration

4. Catalysts for Convenience Voting

5. Collaboration on Language Assistance

6. Administrative Innovations in Counting Ballots

7. Technology and Security in Election Administration

8. Measurement, Innovation, and Election Administration


Appendix A: List of US Supreme Court and Federal Court Cases

Appendix B: List of Major Federal Laws

Appendix C: Methodology


About the Authors



"Kathleen Hale and Mitchell Brown’s How We Vote is an eagerly awaited volume that places the dynamic world of administering American elections in its proper legal, historical, and policy context. Through this book, readers will not only gain a better understanding about how voting has evolved in America over the past two decades, but will gain a greater understanding of the plethora of factors that have gotten us to where we are today. A must-read."—Charles Stewart III, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Professors Hale and Brown have provided a wonderful examination of how election administration has been shaped by federalism, politics, voter preferences, security considerations, resources, and the rules of the game over the last seventy years. Their important book provides both a descriptive and normative look at how subnational innovation is altering the election ecosystem."—Lonna Rae Atkeson, professor of political science, Regents' Lecturer, and director of the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections and Democracy at the University of New Mexico

"In How We Vote, Kathleen Hale and Mitchell Brown demonstrate that the simple act of voting is never simple. The authors provide an enlightening view of how the many steps it takes to conduct an election collectively shapes voter confidence in the outcome of our elections and ultimately sustains our democracy."—Robert M. Stein, Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science, Rice University

"Incredibly timely in view of the scandalous attempts by Donald Trump and his supporters to corrupt the American voting process and results in order to hold on to presidential power in a manner unique with respect to the past 200+ years of American democracy, "How We Vote: Innovation in American Elections" deserves as wide a readership as is possible."—Midwest Book Review

"...policy makers should consider the forces that drive innovation and recognize the essential work of professional who operate on the front lines. Toward those ends, How We Vote: Innovation in American Elections serves as a valuable resource."—Publius: The Journal of Federalism

"[A] clear and thorough overview of the very complicated election architecture."—Political Science Quarterly


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Kathleen Hale is a professor in the Department of Political Science at Auburn University, where she directs its graduate program in election administration. She is the author of the award-winning How Information Matters: Networks and Public Policy Innovation (Georgetown University Press, 2011).

Mitchell Brown is a professor in the Department of Political Science at Auburn University and associate editor of the Journal of Political Science Education.

Together, Hale and Brown direct the Election Administration Initiative at Auburn University. They are the coauthors of Applied Research Methods in Public and Nonprofit Organizations and Administering Elections: How American Elections Work with Robert Montjoy. They are coeditors of The Future of Election Administration as well as The Future of Election Administration: Cases and Conversations with Bridgett King.

320 pp., 6 x 9
18 figures, 28 tables
ISBN: 978-1-62616-778-0
Jun 2020

320 pp., 6 x 9
18 figures, 28 tables
Jun 2020

320 pp.
18 figures, 28 tables
ISBN: 978-1-62616-780-3
Jun 2020

Public Management and Change series
Beryl A. Radin, Series Editor

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