Congratulations to Zach Markovits, Charles Stewart, and the Pew team that has been working on the Election Performance Index for a number of years.  It’s been a long road, and there will inevitably be complaints from states who think they are ranked unfairly, and from advocates who think the rankings are insufficiently detailed or use the wrong measures.

From my perch inside this machine, it has been educational–and frustrating–to discover how difficult it still remains to collect comparable, consistent, and relatively complete measures of election performance for 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Many of the rankings are driven upwards and downwards not by performance but by simple reporting.  That will remain the case until states feel some pressure to collect and report a relatively complete set of indicators after each election.  (This kind of pressure is one of the rationales behind the index first proposed by Heather Gerken.)

If anyone wants a sense of how much forward progress has been made in a few short years, compare this report to the first exploratory effort, the Data for Democracy report that I assembled along with Dan Seligson in late 2008.  It is encouraging to see how much progress has been made between the two presidential election cycles.

A slideshow from Slate (hat tip to Rick Hasen).

Another source for sample ballots (albeit not as attractively presented as Slate) is the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network.  The cool thing about the ACE archive is that it contains materials from the past 20 years and from many countries.

Andrew Reynolds at UNC has a nice selection of ballot papers (the Mongolian one on the right is from his site).

And to close, an example of the “monster” paper ballot in Florida 2012 that caused voters to wait in six hour lines.  Turn the color intensity down on your monitor!


Nice Election Law course website at Swarthmore

Screen shot 2013-01-15 at 3.29.58 PMI stumbled across this cool map that displays election law changes in the United States since 2006, put together as part of a class project by Professor Carol Nackenoff at Swarthmore.

I think it relies a bit too heavily on commentary from Brennan Center reports to describe election law changes (scroll over Tennessee for instance), and in the area of early voting, there are definitely some missing entries.  It’s still a really nice pilot that could be built on by other scholars.

I appeared along with a number of poll workers, local election officials, advocates, and academics at a full day post-election meeting organized by the Election Assistance Commission.

You can watch the full day webcast here.  Each segment is 90 minutes long and it’s pretty easy to pick and choose according to your interest.

(Crossposted from

Chiming in on Michael’s post, credit for sparking the idea in my head was a comment by a poll worker. I apologize for not writing down his name, but it was either Clyde David (Prince George’s County MD) or Stephen Graham (District of Columbia).

He discussed the need for ongoing poll worker training, which got me to think of the poll worker training studies at the the Pew Center on the States (including an online component) that never really got off the ground.

This led me to reflect about how online learning has changed in the last five years, and how ongoing training might be revived, and even how young people could be encouraged to be poll workers… and all this led to MOOCs (massive open online courses).

As Michael notes, there has been a lot written about MOOCs, from breathless commentary that compares them to the disruptive impact of the Internet on newspapers to a recent story that claims real profits from MOOCs are a decade off. We in higher education really don’t know how online learning will affect our lives, but nearly everyone is paying attention. (This link takes you to a wholesection at the NY Times website on MOOCs.) Continue reading

Crist calls Florida elections a “late night TV joke” (Miami Herald)

Ned Foley and Rick Hasen say GOP in Florida disenfranchised voters. (AP)

Gov. Rick Scott agrees that Florida laws need to be reconsidered (Tampa Bay Times) and called for a bipartisan solution. (Sarasota Tribune)


From the Miami Herald:

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, sponsored the law that included the provisional ballot changes. Despite the national criticism he’s received for supporting it, Baxley said the changes were needed.

Baxley said he pushed to have the out-of-county requirement after talking with a friend, Alachua County GOP chairman Stafford Jones. …

Jones said he has no proof to support his claim, only recollections of liberal blog posts that people were moving to vote.

Will Boyett, Alachua’s chief deputy supervisor, said his office researched the claims and found nothing to back Jones’ claims.

Read more here:

I am in DC at the Voting in America Summit. Here is the very active twitter feed:

[twitter_search query=”#via2012″ show=”5″ ]

The new clerk-recorder in Riverside County, CA, Kari Verjil, has apparently avoided the pothole that ended the career of her predecessor Barbara Dumore.

Riverside has the 10th fastest count among California counties, according to information just released by the Secretary of State’s office.

Verjil attributes the improvement to a dedicated effort by her office to encourage citizens to cast their ballots by mail.  Verjil did the smart thing by figuring out the best way to respond to the pressures placed on her by political actors.

It’s the political pressure that bothers me.  Buried down in the story is this revealing comment:

With paper ballots in widespread use after the state’s decision years ago to eliminate electronic computer voting, Verjil had said a shift to heavy mail voting was the best strategy for speeding the count.

Let’s be clear about this: the Secretary of State and other political leaders decided to move away from electronic voting machines.  Then these same actors criticized local officials for a slow count which was almost exclusively a known consequence of the move to paper ballots.

If you move to paper ballots, then you are obligated in my view to accept the consequences.  And in a voter intent state that also allows voters to drop absentee ballots at precincts on Election Day, the consequence is a slow count.

I made the  same point I made back in 2010 when Dunmore’s job was in jeopardy.

Apparently the response is going to be an even heavier emphasis on voting by mail, not because it is the best system for voters, not because it is cheaper or more efficient, but just because political actors can’t wait 12 or 14 hours for election results.

This is not a model for good policy making.

Nice commentary by Doug Chapin of the Election Academy on Rick Pildes’s Election Law guest post on early voting.

I completely agree with Rick’s comparisons of absentee by-mail, early in-person, and Election Day voting.  (In fact, I’ve long argued for those terms because they most precisely describe the mechanism by which the ballots are cast.)

I mildly dissent from Rick on one point, though.  Early in-person voting is not a “recent development in American democracy.”  It’s been around for nearly thirty years now.  More than a quarter of all ballots were cast early (early in-person and absentee combined) in 2004 and almost a third were cast early in 2008.

I’m glad to see Courts and scholars finally waking up to the quiet revolution in voting.  But there’s not doubt that the revolution has been underway for a few decades.