Trade-offs are inherent to election administration. Election officials and policymakers must regularly make decisions that restrict or expand voter access, detract or enhance election security, and reduce or enshrine voter privacy. These decisions ought to be simple: policymakers should prioritize expanding privacy, security, and access over restricting it.
The electronic transmission of ballots is a direct embodiment of this conflict. Election officials and cybersecurity experts agree that electronic ballot return yields vulnerabilities that cannot be mitigated while preserving ballot privacy. Despite the vulnerabilities, electronic ballot transmission is crucial in ensuring that citizens unable to vote through traditional voting methods (such as mail or in-person voting) can still cast a ballot. Electronic ballot return is already being utilized to some extent in at least 31 states, particularly for military and overseas voters. Despite its fairly extensive adoption, there remains almost no real conversation among election experts about how to do it well and what policy options facilitate those practices.
This paper strives to provide state lawmakers and election officials with thoughtful and proactive guidance on how to improve the administration of electronic ballot transmission. Rather than focus on the expansion or removal of electronic ballot transmission options, it outlines best practices that are informed by the learned experiences of election administrators, cybersecurity experts, and accessibility advocates.