Special issue of Technical Communication (November 2018)

Technical Communication and Election Technologies

Guest editors:
Godwin Agboka, University of Houston-Downtown
Isidore Dorpenyo, George Mason University

The push towards the democratization of countries, particularly when technologies influence electoral outcomes, must be properly scrutinized by technical communicators in a nonpartisan and rigorous manner. Several electoral events and activities, both within and outside the US, provide some grounds for technical communicators to contribute to conversations about what it means to organize clean, fair, credible, and incontrovertible elections in a technologically-driven era. Increasingly, electoral technologies have become scarily vulnerable to breakdown, malfunction, and hacking, raising several implications about electoral integrity.

Over the years, professional and technical communicators have effectively highlighted ways in which technologies either facilitate communication or affect society (Banks, 2005; Hayhoe & Grady, 2008; Sun, 2012), but little scholarship has looked at ways in which technologies (broadly defined to include paper ballots, voter registration, voter education materials, Internet technologies, scanners, ballot printing materials, user manuals and other technical documents used during elections) shape the conduct and/or outcomes of elections. Whitney (2013), for example, demonstrates how technical communicators can contribute to electoral issues when she critically studied the 2010 Citizens Clean Elections Voter Education Guide designed with the purpose of providing the Arizona voting public with the needed information about state elections. She concludes that technical communicators have a role in helping electorates to understand how personal political gains shape how information is communicated, including how technical communication constructs “a perceived identity of certain groups of people and influences the reactions that other groups have to them” (p. 451). More so, Dorpenyo’s (2016) work on biometric machines used in the 2012 Ghana elections also point to ways in which technical communicators have vital roles to play in technology adoption during elections, especially in unenfranchised sites.

Also, issues about technology and their deployment or use in elections raise important usability and social justice questions both for designers and users of such technologies, especially in unenfranchised cultural sites. Thus, for this special issue we ask: How do technologies advance or inhibit electoral integrity? What roles can technical communicators play in this process? Technical communicators have important roles to play in this conversation because of our long standing conversations on technology and social justice (Agboka, 2013; Jones, 2016a, 2016b; Rose, 2016), technology, race and access (Banks, 2005; Haas, 2012; Seigel, 2013), technology and human rights (Walton, 2016), and technology and ethics (Katz, 1992).

Some questions to consider for this special issue

  • What broad roles might technologies play in enhancing electoral integrity?
  • How do technical communication theories help us to think about or question broader electoral systems and institutions?
  • How can usability practices help us better understand and/or address issues of participation in election processes?
  • What roles do technologies play in enacting social justice for users during elections, especially in unenfranchised cultural sites?
  • What effect does perception of election technologies have on voter turnout?
  • How important is election staff’s understanding of technology maintaining the chain of custody and final counting of results?
  • How does our collective knowledge of technologies shape conversations about elections?
  • How does our collective knowledge of technologies help advance social justice for users of electoral technology?
  • What is the future of research in elections and technologies?
  • What perspectives do theories of localization present in the adoption and use of electoral technologies?
  • In what ways do technologies become a surveillance tool in elections? And, what are the likely challenges/complications of this surveillance?

Proposals should be developed into:

  • Original research articles with specific applications to the practice of the field
  • Review articles of pertinent books and articles, synthesizing research and identifying key issues for further study
  • Case studies with implications for teaching and practice of technical communication

Submission procedures:

  • Cover page containing your name, institutional affiliation, and email address.
  • 400-word proposal.
  • All submissions will be reviewed by at least two readers, whether you are submitting a research article, a review article or case study.
  • Submit via email to Godwin Agboka: or Isidore Dorpenyo:
  • Proposals should be sent as a .docx, .doc, or .rtf file attached to an email message with the subject line: “Technical communication and election technologies.”


  • 1 October 2017: Deadline for authors to submit 400-word proposals
  • 1 November 2017: Proposal acceptance notifications are emailed to authors
  • 15 February 2018: Authors submit first draft of manuscripts
  • 1 April 2018: Reviews sent to authors
  • 1 July 2018: Authors submit final manuscripts
  • 15 August 2018: Guest editor(s) submits final revised manuscripts and introduction for copyediting
  • 1 November 2018:  Issue published

Please email us if you would like to discuss proposal ideas.


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