New EVIC Research Director

Election geeks! I’m pleased to announce that Paul Manson, a PhD student and Senior Research Assistant at the Center for Public Service at Mark O. Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University, will be joining EVIC as research director.

Paul is a policy researcher who focuses on public involvement and participation technologies – systems used to collect, manage, and synthesize public perceptions and interests. His research on these technologies to understand how environmental debates are framed by the application of representational technologies. He has also research the role of public involvement in resilience and disaster recovery policy efforts in Oregon. Paul manages a series of election research projects with the Center for Public Service, with a focus on vote at home methods and voter registration efforts.

Some of you will know Paul as our event organizer for the 2017 Election Science, Reform, and Administration conference. Paul also collaborated on a recent study of the turnout effects of vote by mail in Utah.

I’m thrilled to have Paul on the research team as we move forward on positioning EVIC as a west coast hub for information and research on election sciences and election administration.

Reader Update: 2018 Democracy Fund / Reed College LEO Survey Reader Update: 2018 Democracy Fund / Reed College LEO Survey

The Early Voting Information Center at Reed College is honored to have been selected as a research partner for the 2018 Democracy Fund / Reed College Local Election Official Survey. As Natalie Adona of the Fund wrote in April at the Democracy Fund blog:

We have two main motivations for the survey. First, we want to better understand LEO’s views about the roles, responsibilities, and challenges of their work. By tapping into their experience and deep knowledge of election administration, we hope to uncover new ideas to improve the capacity and quality of elections, and address LEOs’ most urgent needs.

Second, we want to amplify the voices of LEOs in national, regional, and state conversations about election administration, integrity, and reform. Far too often, these conversations don’t consider the “street view” realities of election administration. The insights of LEOs from across the country are vital and should be considered in the national dialogue about improving and securing our elections.

While it is too soon to release detailed findings, we want to share with the elections community some things we’ve learned about surveying local election officials. We will follow up with some (very preliminary) results this week.

  1. Election Officials Support Our Work, But Elections Are Their #1 Priority
    We sent out 3000 emails in mid May, inviting LEOs to respond to our brief (10 minute) survey. We immediately got some very pointed comments about the elections calendar in a number of states.Thank you!  We recognize that this is a busy time for local election officials. We altered the timing of our outreach so as not to conflict with the primary calendar of any given state.This is a practice we plan to improve upon in the future.We’re thrilled that our response rates so far are approaching 20% for the online survey and over 30% overall including the print survey (more on this below). This compares favorably with the 31% response rates reported by Kimball and Baybeck in their 2013 Election Law Journal paper. (We actually hope to beat the 31% rate.)
  2. You Got (Postal) Mail! LEOs Recognize The Importance of Cybersecurity
    We hoped to complete a substantial portion of our interviews via an online survey platform. However, it soon became apparent that many, many local officials are rightly wary of clicking on email links that they don’t recognize.  (The survey link connects to Qualtrics.com, a trusted site but one not well-known to many outside of the survey community.)We’d like to thank those officials who filled out the online survey, but we’ve taken the step of following up with print surveys, and we are, shall we say, overwhelmed with the response from officials.  One of the most interesting things we found is that at least a hundred officials are following up after we sent the print instrument, saying now they will fill out the online version. Lesson learned!
  3. Election Officials Have Opinions About Improving Elections, So Let’s Ask Them!
    We provided a number of “open-ended” items on the survey, providing a chance for election officials to tell us in their own words about how elections in the United States can be improved.  Over 67% of the respondents so far have written something in the free response category.We asked officials to enter their names and emails if they would be willing to allow us to follow up for elaboration and further comments, and over half have done so.

    This is great news! It shows that LEOs are interested, engaged, and want to share their view points about election reform.

We want to personally thank officials in these states who have responded in high numbers.  The table below is based on our online numbers only. We will update this later in the week, incorporating the print surveys.

Response Rates
State Response Rate
AK 100.0%
OR 68.0%
DE 66.7%
WA 48.1%
OH 38.3%
PA 37.3%
VA 34.6%
NC 32.9%
RI 31.8%
NM 31.6%

We hope many more local officials will find the time to respond over the coming weeks. If you have any questions about the survey, please feel free to email dfrcleosurvey@reed.edu.

Papers and Presentations from the Election Sciences, Reform, and Administration Now Available Papers and Presentations from the Election Sciences, Reform, and Administration Now Available

We are pleased to announce that the papers and presentations from the July 2017 Election Sciences, Reform, and Administration Conference (ESRA Conference) are now available for wide release!

Please visit the ESRA website to view and download the great works presented.

The inaugural ESRA conference, co-organized by the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College and the Center for Public Service at Portland State University, brings together scholars of political science and election administration to develop rigorous empirical approaches to the study of how laws and administrative procedures affect the quality of elections in the United States. They will identify major questions in the field, foster collaboration between election administrators and election scientists, and  connect senior and junior scholars.

A little election sciences knowledge can go a long way: tooting the horn for Jay Lee A little election sciences knowledge can go a long way: tooting the horn for Jay Lee

Just wanted to take a chance to toot the horn for Jay Lee, a rising junior Math – Statistics major at Reed College who helped the Open Elections team finish wrangling the precinct level elections results from North Dakota.

Jay got interested in elections work after taking my class on US Elections in the Spring and taking my co-taught Election Sciences course, offered in partnership with Andrew Bray.

Those of you who have been following this blog may remember that Jay, along with Matthew Yancheff,  has also released an R package, “RCV”, to help process and report on ranked choice voting results.  They worked on the project in our Election Sciences class, and, supported by funding from the College, produced the R package this summer.

#electionsciences2017 starting this week! #electionsciences2017 starting this week!

The first Election Sciences, Reform, and Administration Conference is happening this week in Portland, OR!

I’d like to thank Phil Keisling and Paul Manson of the Center for Public Service at Portland State University for helping to organize, and the Reed College Department of Political Science, the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, the National Science Foundation, and the Elections Team at the Democracy Fund for making this event possible.

Follow the link above, or point your browser to electionsciences.net for more information.

Ranked Choice Voting Package Available on CRAN

This announcement from Jay Lee, Matthew Yancheff, and Mia Leung, three Reed students who were in the Data and Election Sciences course that I taught along with Prof. Andrew Bray this spring.  They have released the results of their work to CRAN.

Thanks to Rob Richie and Theo Landsman of FairVote for helping push this forward.


Hello,

Just wanted to let you know that the first version of our RCV package is now submitted to CRAN, the R package archive! Going forward we’ll be updating this work, so if you have any comments or bug fixes please feel free to submit a pull request or issue to our GitHub repository, or just email us directly.
I’ve included a few lines of code at the bottom of this email to install the package locally and go through an example election (San Francisco Board of Supervisors, District 7). You’ll need at least version 3.3 of R installed to run these. If you don’t have this installed and don’t want to, some of the examples are available at our GitHub repo (scroll down to the README).
Again, thank you so much for your interest in our work and any help you’ve given us in regards to this project. We look forward to hearing any comments or critiques you might have on your experience using our package.
Thank you,
Jay Lee
Reed College
install.packages("rcv")
library(rcv)
sf_cleaned <- clean_ballot(ballot = sf_bos_ballot, b_header = T, 
                        lookup = sf_bos_lookup, l_header = T, 
                        format = "WinEDS")
results7 <- rcv_tally(sf_cleaned, "Board of Supervisors, District 7")

The results table for this election is stored in the `results7` object. It can be printed in the console with the first line of code provided below, or viewed in the RStudio window with the second line:
results7
View(results7)
We also have a functionality for producing an interactive type of flowchart called a Sankey diagram. This is done with the networkD3 package, which you must install separately to produce the visualization. The code for that is again provided here, but if you don’t want to install it we have an example on our GitHub repo.
install.packages("networkD3")
library(networkD3)
d3_7 <- rcv::make_d3list(results = results7)
networkD3::sankeyNetwork(Links = d3_7$values, Nodes = d3_7$names,
                         Source = "source", Target = "target",
                         Value = "value", NodeID = "candidate", units = "voters",
                         fontSize = 12, nodeWidth = 20)
New report on Oregon’s Automatic Voter Registration System

I’ll let the OPB story speak for itself, since I was one of the co-authors of the report. 

Call for Papers: Summer Conference on Election Science, Reform, and Administration

Paper proposals are being invited for a Summer Conference on Election Science, Reform, and Administration, hosted by Reed College and Portland State University, and co-sponsored by the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College and the Election Data and Science Lab at MIT. The conference will be held in Portland, OR from July 27-28, 2017.  

The goals of the conference are, first, to provide a forum for scholars in political science, public administration, law, computer science, statistics, and other fields who are working to develop rigorous empirical approaches to the study of how laws and administrative procedures affect the quality of elections in the United States; and, second, to build scientific capacity by identifying major questions in the field, fostering collaboration, and connecting senior and junior scholars.

The conference is designed to facilitate close attention to the papers presented, including extensive feedback and discussion. Therefore, papers should represent new work, with early drafts of papers encouraged.

We hope that a wide variety of topics will be addressed at the conference. We are particularly interested in new and innovative projects that address long standing questions about the impact of election reforms on registration and turnout at both the state and federal level; how the voter experience has improved or eroded during the two recent waves of election reform; and the research design and methodological challenges in election science. The following is a list provides a few sample ideas, but should not be considered exhaustive:  

  • How new or changed election laws affect the size and makeup of the pool of registered voters and the federal, state, and/or local electorates;
  • Professionalization (or the lack thereof) and the quality of election administration;
  • Evaluating the impact of voting centers, consolidated precincts, and convenience voting;
  • How election reform has differentially impacted historically disadvantaged segments of the electorate;
  • The analytical and methodological tools needed to work with voter registration and voter history files, and challenges in making causal inferences when working with these files;
  • New methods for connecting other behavioral records (e.g. survey data) or geospatial data with voter history and voter turnout data

Airfare, lodging, and conference meals will be covered for paper presenters and discussants. Other scholars are welcome to attend if they can cover conference costs (details to be announced within a month).

Lonna Atkeson, University of New Mexico, and Bernard Fraga, Indiana University, will serve as program co-chairs, and Paul Gronke, Reed College and Phil Keisling, Center for Public Service at PSU, will act as conference organizers and hosts.

Paper proposals of no more than 250 words should be submitted by April 15, 2017.  Submit proposals at http://bit.ly/PDXelection – we expect to announce decisions by May 1.  Any questions can be sent to atkeson@umn.edu, bfraga@indiana.edu, or gronke@reed.edu.

Scholars wishing to attend without presenting a paper should also contact Emily Hebbron (hebbron@reed.edu) by May 1st.  Further details about the conference will posted on the conference Web site soon thereafter.

Please feel free to re-distribute this announcement to relevant individuals and e-mail lists. We look forward to reading your paper proposals!

Yours sincerely,

Lonna Atkeson, Bernard Fraga, and Paul Gronke