Blueprint to Implementation: Election Administration Reform for 2014, 2016, and Beyond

On Monday, May 19, this event will take place in Chicago, and a number of VTP folks will be there — including Charles Stewart, Steve Graves and myself. Looks like it will be an interesting event, and I’ll try to write more about it on Monday!

VTP’s Charles Stewart Testifies Before US Senate Rules and Administration

The headline says it all — Charles testified at a hearing of the US Senate Rules and Administration committee earlier this week. This link will take you to his written testimony and the webcast.

Improving the quality of surveys

Here’s a Q&A that I recently did with Daniel Oberski on the OUPblog, who has recently developed a helpful software package (Survey Quality Prediction) that is getting an award at AAPOR this week.

Auditing Risks

There is a great story in the NYTimes today about new British rules related to auditing.  Specifically, under the new rules:

Auditors are supposed to comment on the particular risks that companies face and to say what they did to deal with those risks.

They are supposed to discuss how much of the company they actually audited, to disclose what figure they deemed to be the lower limit for materiality [the importance/significance of an amount, transaction, or discrepancy], and to explain how they arrived at that number.

Imagine if we did this in elections!  What if, in every election, we knew the particular risks that were evident in each jurisdiction — based on an audit of the election, processes, and procedures in the jurisdiction — and what the jurisdiction had done to mitigate the risk?  It would provide excellent data on management and allow people to know how well a jurisdiction is working to minimize problems, reduce the possibility of malfeasance, and ensure elections are of the highest quality.

“Ballot Secrecy Concerns and Voter Mobilization”, new paper by Gerber, Huber, Biggers and Hendry

There’s an interesting paper now in early access at American Political Quarterly, by Alan Gerber, Gregory Huber, Daniel Biggers and David Hendry, “Ballot Secrecy Concerns and Voter Mobilization: New Experimental Evidence about Message Source, Context, and the Duration of Mobilization Effects.” Here’s the paper’s abstract:

Recent research finds that doubts about the integrity of the secret ballot as an institution persist among the American public. We build on this finding by providing novel field experimental evidence about how information about ballot secrecy protections can increase turnout among registered voters who had not previously voted. First, we show that a private group’s mailing designed to address secrecy concerns modestly increased turnout in the highly contested 2012 Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election. Second, we exploit this and an earlier field experiment conducted in Connecticut during the 2010 congressional midterm election season to identify the persistent effects of such messages from both governmental and non-governmental sources. Together, these results provide new evidence about how message source and campaign context affect efforts to mobilize previous non-voters by addressing secrecy concerns, as well as show that attempting to address these beliefs increases long-term participation. and Voting Advice Applications

My colleague Alexander Trechsel at the European University University and the European Union Democracy Observatory has just launched a new Voting Advice Application (VAA) for the 2014 European Parliament Elections, If you are in a nation participating in these elections, check out euandi!

VAAs have proliferated in recent years, especially in European elections. They are widely used by voters, and increasingly used by researchers to study political communications, the use of new technologies in politics, voting behavior and electoral politics. For example, I recently published a paper with Ines Levin, Alexander Trechsel and Kristjan Vassil in the Journal of Information Technology and Politics, “Voting Advice Applications: How Useful and for Whom?”. We have another paper on VAAs, in Party Politics, “Party preferences in the digital age: The impact of voting advice applictions”, (work that we did with the late Peter Mair).

There’s a lot of excellent work new work on VAAs that has been published, or is now forthcoming. For example, Diego Garzia and Stefan Marschall have an edited volume forthcoming from ECPR Press, “Matching Voters with Parties and Candidates.” There’s much, much more; VAAs are proliferating and many researchers are studying both their use and the data they yield in their work.

New VTP working paper by Rivest and Rabin

There’s a new VTP working paper now available, “Practical End-to-End Verifiable Voting via Split-Value Representations and Randomized Partial Checking”, by Ron Rivest and Michael Rabin.

The State of the Voting Systems Industry: Scytl Receives Major Investment

Over the years, various VTP reports and publications have discussed the need for a more vibrant and innovative voting systems industry (for a recent example, see the 2012 VTP report, Voting: What Has Changed, What Hasn’t, and What Needs Improvement). In fact, we will be discussing this in my undergraduate elections class at Caltech this week.

It was interesting to see in the news this morning that Scytl, one of the few voting systems companies, is reporting that they are receiving a $40 million investment from Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital. That’s a pretty significant investment, at a time when there will be increasing demand for voting systems and technologies throughout the world.

JETS submission deadline

The deadline for submissions for the next issue of JETS is rapidly approaching! See this URL for more information:

PCEA research white papers

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration’s report is getting a lot of attention and praise following its release on Wednesday. One aspect of the report I want to highlight is the degree to which the Commission aimed to ground their findings in the best available research, academic and otherwise.  It renews my faith that it may be possible to build a field of election administration that is more technocratic than it currently is.

The report’s appendix, available through the web site, is a valuable resource on the available research about each aspect of the commission’s charge.

I want to lift up an important subset of that appendix, which is a collection of white papers written by a collection of scholars, drawn from a variety of fields and perspectives, that summarized the large literatures that were relevant to the commission’s work.  A collection of those papers has been assembled in one place, on the VTP web site, so that others might have easy access to them.  Here are the authors and subjects:

Much of this research effort was assisted by the Democracy Fund, though of course, the research is all the work and opinions of the authors. Speaking personally, I greatly appreciate the support and encouragement of the Fund through these past few months.