The Early Voting Information Center, in collaboration with Democracy Fund, is proud to announce the release of the Stewards of Democracy, a report based on our 2018 Survey of Local Election Officials. Conducted in the summer of 2018, this survey obtained responses from over 1,000 officials across the country, serving jurisdictions ranging in size from under 250 voters to over 1 million voters.
A lot more information is contained in the full report, but a brief list of the takeaways:
- LEOs were prepared for the 2018 midterm election, although most expressed low confidence in obtaining sufficient numbers of bilingual poll workers.
- LEOs have high confidence in the security of their own states’ voter registration systems but were less confident in the security of voter registration systems across the country.
- LEOs were also very confident in their own states’ ability to count ballots as intended but were less confident in vote counts across the nation.
- LEOs told us, in both closed-ended items and most forcefully in open-ended responses, that resource constraints are a major limitation on their ability to engage and educate voters and to assure a positive voter experience.
- LEOs in larger jurisdictions were far more likely to report taking cybersecurity measures before the 2018 election.
- The majority of LEOs agreed that, since they first started administering elections, registration and voting have become easier for voters and for election administrators.
- The LEOs we surveyed overwhelmingly expressed voter-centric attitudes that valued voter education and outreach — the percentage of LEOs endorsing this voter-centric approach has grown by 40 percent over the past decade.
- LEOs widely acknowledged the positive role that technology can play in improving election conduct, but they may be skeptical of technology that is put in place too fast.
- Opinions around “ease” or “difficulty” of Online Voter Registration and Automatic Voter Registration were strongly conditioned by experience with administering these policies.
- LEOs articulated, the need to increase funding and resources, especially staff and poll workers, new technology, and training.
- LEOs were sometimes frustrated with legislative changes to elections, especially when those changes occurred without input or the funding needed to implement policies.
- LEOs expressed support for policy changes like early voting, expansion of no-excuse absentee voting, and all-mail elections.
The National Vote at Home Institute has brought together a “powerful, diverse, bipartisan and non-partisan group of election reformers… to strengthen American democracy”.
Vote at Home announced that Paul Gronke, EVIC Founder and Director, will now serve on their Circle of Advisors. Gronke reacts to the news:
Proud to be a member of the Circle of Advisors for the National Vote At Home Institute. The set of advisors includes many experienced election administrators, elected officials, and advocates. I’m pleased that EVIC’s record as a non-partisan purveyor of research, data, and information on non-precinct place voting, including of course vote at home, can contribute the the Institute.
The announcement from Vote at Home including a full list of members and the newly announced directors can be found here.
For more information about Vote at Home, check out their webpage here.
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.
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.
- 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.)
- 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!
- 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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.