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 firstname.lastname@example.org.