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VRS 101: Common Terms & Definitions

VRS 101: Common Terms & Definitions

If you’ve been using your voter registration system for a while and have started reading about modern systems, you may find yourself overwhelmed by how the terminology has changed. We’ve made a glossary of both terms we use when talking about our eLect Voter Registration System internally, and also terms we have seen used frequently in the requests for proposals we get from counties and states procuring a new system. If you have a question about a term or phrase you don’t find below, send us an email and we’ll be happy to help!

Admin User

A system user with Admin user rights.

Audit Trail

Recording of new voter records and any changes made to an existing voter record. The audit entry captures and displays the type of change, the fields that were changed, the previous and new state of the field changed, a timestamp, and the username for the user that made the changes to the record.

Ballot Image

Scanned images of Mail-In ballots.

Ballot Tracking

A third-party tool accessed through the Voter-Facing portal that allows voters and staff to track the status of Vote by Mail Absentee ballots throughout the process of printing, sending, receiving, and accepting.


In some VRS, a component is a unit of software that is a member of and dependent on the primary module in which it resides. Components contain more granular software elements and often reference specific data tables and filtering options.


The dashboard is usually the home page for the user interface. It’s used for system notifications to inform users of changes. This includes new files imported from external databases or any changes that require a user to take action.

Data Integrity & Accuracy

Data integrity refers to the invulnerability of a system to accidental intervention or deliberate, fraudulent manipulation from external or internal sources that would result in errors in the processing of data. The ability to mitigate threats helps ensure data accuracy, so that the voter lists and voter information is correct.

Database of Record

In statewide systems, this refers to a central database that serves all counties’ needs

Digital Ballot Image

A digital ballot image of a voted ballot that is captured, encrypted, and stored.

Document Types

Document types are used to categorize documents to aid in quickly identifying the content.

Election District

A contiguous geographic area represented by a public official who is elected by voters residing within the district boundaries. The district may cover an entire state or political subdivision, may be a portion of the state or political subdivision, or may include portions of more than one political subdivision.

Election Officials

Election personnel employed by the jurisdiction and responsible for creating elections and ballot content, managing elections and election data, and producing reports using the voting system software.


An element is the smallest software unit in the product interface. Elements are nested under components, which are part of a specific software module.


Process of obscuring information by changing plain text into ciphertext for the purpose of security and/or privacy.

Geographic Information System (GIS)

A geographic information system (GIS) is a system designed to capture, store, analyze, manage, and present spatial or geographic data.

See also: Shapefile


A variety of databases that integrate with system such as department of motor vehicles, courts, NCOA and more

Integration / Interoperability

Refers to data being pulled into VRS from external databases such as motor vehicle databases, or data sharing between two election components such as poll book and VRS sending information back and forth


The geographic area over which authority extends. Power or right of a legal or political agency to exercise its authority over a geographical territory. Jurisdiction over a territory relates to the geographic area over which a court has the authority to decide cases.

Load / Stress Testing

Large numbers of simultaneous logins and sessions simulated by a computer program to test the system’s continued successful behavior.

Model Type

There are 3 common models for VRS:

Bottom-Up VR Model

County voter databases connect with a central database, and data is transferred via either daily sessions or in a real-time method. All county processing is done on local county databases.

Top-Down VR Model

Voter records are centralized in the state database and can be accessed by each county via online access. Each county processes directly on the central database.

Hybrid Model

A combination of the other two systems, a Hybrid allows some counties to use the central database directly while others use their local system and submit their data to the statewide database in batch or real-time interfacing.


A module is deployable and manageable unit of software that encapsulates the functions of related components in a central point of control in the user interface. Modules contain lower level components for specific functions and can be installed, uninstalled, and refreshed.

Operational Environment

All software, hardware (including facilities, furnishings and fixtures), materials, documentation, and the interface used by the election personnel, maintenance operator, poll worker, and voter, required for voting equipment operations.

Poll Station

A Poll Station is the term used in Everyone Counts documentation and product interface that is synonymous with the term polling location. The Poll Station is defined as a predetermined facility to which voters are assigned to cast in-person ballots.

Polling Location

See: Poll Station

Polling Place

See: Poll Station


A contiguous geographic area represented by a public official who is elected by voters residing within the precinct boundaries. A precinct may cover an entire state or political subdivision, may be a portion of the state or political subdivision, or may include portions of more than one political subdivision.

See also: Election District, Split Precinct

Provisional Ballot

Ballot provided to individuals who claim they are registered and eligible to vote but whose eligibility or registration status cannot be confirmed when they present themselves to vote. Once voted, such ballots must be kept separate from other ballots and are not included in the tabulation until after the voter’s eligibility is confirmed. In some jurisdictions this is referred to as an affidavit ballot.


A shapefile is a geospatial vector data format file that stores the geometric location and attribute information of geographical features for use in Geographic Information System (GIS) software. The shapefile format spatially describes geographical features and represents the features in points, lines, or polygons (areas). Shapefiles are developed and regulated by Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) for data interoperability among Esri and other GIS software products.

See also: GIS

Split Precinct

A precinct that contains an election district subdivision, e.g., a water district or school board district, requiring an additional ballot configuration.

See also: Precinct

Test Plan

A document created prior to testing that outlines the scope and nature of testing, items to be tested, test approach, resources needed to perform testing, test tasks, risks and schedule.

User Acceptance Testing Document (UAT)

A document signed by the election authority certifying the content, testing, and features of the election. The UAT document locks down all aspects of the election.

Vote Center

Vote centers are an alternative to traditional, neighborhood-based polling places. When a jurisdiction opts to use vote centers, voters may cast their ballots on Election Day at any vote center in the jurisdiction, regardless of their residential address.


A voter is any person who is permitted to vote after their eligibility is verified by a poll worker or Central Office verification process.

Voter File

The digital file for each voter.

See also: Voter RecordVoter Profile

Voter Profile

Contains voter information such as name, address, dob, registration date, party affiliation, address, district and more depending on the needs of the jurisdiction. Commonly interchanged with Voter File or Voter Record

Voter Record

Refers to the data in a voter’s file.

See also: Voter File, Voter Profile

Voter Registration System (VRS)

A Voter Registration System (VRS) is system software designed to support municipal, county, and state governments in managing new voter registration requests and maintaining existing voter registration data. The system should provide high usability and extensive reporting features and has the ability to obtain real-time data updates from outside agencies and provide ongoing compliance with local, state, and federal election laws.

VRS Technology: Databases

VRS Technology: Databases

Feature Highlight: Automated EAVS Reporting

Feature Highlight: Automated EAVS Reporting