As a result of the decentralized nature of elections in the United States, election administration structures vary greatly state-by-state. In ten states the state-level leadership is the responsibility of an election board or commission (simplified as “board” hereafter). In 31 states an individual has this responsibility, most often an elected secretary of state. The nine remaining states divide election authority between an individual election official and a state board. These three categories are presented below:
|States with election leadership from a board:||States with election leadership from an elected or appointed individual (usually the secretary of state):||States which split leadership duties between both an election board and individual official:|
|DE, HI, IL, MD, NY, NC, SC, OK, VA, WI||AL, AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, ID, IA, KS, LA, MA, ME, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, OR, PA, TX, UT, VT, WA, WY||AR, GA, IN, KY, OH, RI, SD, TN, WV|
|Total: 10||Total: 31||Total: 9|
Each state is required by federal law to have a Chief Election Official, or CEO. In states where a board leads election administration, the CEO is appointed by the board (or in the case of Delaware and New York, appointed to the board by the Governor). In states with an elected or appointed individual (usually the secretary of state) that person also has the role of Chief Election Official. In aggregate, 33 state CEOs are directly elected, 10 are appointed by (or to) state election boards or commissions, 4 are individuals appointed by governors, and 3 are individuals appointed by state legislatures.
The structure of boards varies by state. Some are split evenly between parties, forcing either compromise or deadlock, while others are designed to be controlled by a single party, giving one side control of the process. Only Hawaii and Ohio have an evenly split board which must agree on a final unaffiliated member to serve as the tie-breaking chair.
|Boards structured for partisan balance (even number of members)||Boards that one party can control (odd number of members)||Bipartisan boards with a nonpartisan chair or tiebreaker|
|IL, IN, NY, WI||AR, DE, GA, KY, MD, NC, OK, RI, SC, SD, TN, VA, WV||HI, OH|
|Total: 4||Total: 13||Total: 2|
Information on who is appointed to these boards and how is rooted in state statutes. In order to demystify the process, ERN has collected information from each state, which you can find below: