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June 26, 2024 ABA Task Force for American Democracy

Election Administration as a Licensed Profession

Ganesh Sitaraman & Kevin M. Stack, Wisconsin Law Review


This scholarly article advocates for the creation of state licensing regimes to govern the profession of election administration. The authors argue that professional licensure will increase public confidence in the electoral system and make it more difficult for highly-partisan individuals to obtain election administration roles. The article first examines potential problems with current proposals for election administration reform, and then looks to Michigan as a case study for implementing its proposed licensing requirements.

Key Findings/Messages

A 2023 survey of election workers found 56% were “very worried” or “somewhat worried” about political influence in the election administration process.  While both political parties have recently taken a heightened political interest in election administration, their positions do not align. As a result, current proposals for non-partisan election administration, while perhaps ideal in theory, are unlikely to be adopted politically. A professional licensure system is more easily implemented and would address some of the frequent critiques that election administration is too partisan and haphazard. The three primary benefits of licensing are: (1) it ensures that individuals in the profession have a certain amount of expertise and training; (2) it creates norms of integrity and service among members; and (3) it enhances public trust in the profession.

Key Recommendations Made

States should make election administration a licensed profession. The licensing requirements should apply to every level of election administration, with the exception of ordinary poll workers. Licensure should consist of both pre-job requirements and continuing education.  States should also institute experience and personal requirements to ensure election administrators have a demonstrated commitment to civic duty. The licensing regime should institute penalties and discipline for election officials who violate their professional duties.  Similarly, states should institute criminal penalties for those who interfere with the work of election officials.