Category Archives: early voting

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.

Updates on everything early voting

Apologies to our regular readers for my absence for a few weeks.  I’m back to update you on all things early voting.

Some of you may have seen an editorial in Roll Call that Rob Richie and I authored, arguing for ranked choice voting in presidential primaries for overseas absentee ballots.  If anyone has reactions, I’d love to hear them. I think this is a great idea, and I’m pondering whether I should work with Rich to push this more systematically in a few states for 2016.

Voting reform is pushing ahead in Connecticut.  It looks like online voting registration–an initiative of the Pew Center on the States--will be put in place.  The legislature may also relax no-excuse absentee voting requirements.  This means my standing comment in powerpoint presentations about the Northeast may need to be amended!

Early voting rates in Ohio seem to be lagging behind 2008. Some local officials speculate that it may because of a fear that candidates will drop out, but I don’t find that particularly convincing.  None of the leading four candidates is showing any signs of withdrawing at this point.  As Mike Alvarez has argued in his book, it is probably because voters remain uncertain and candidate support is fluid in the Buckeye State.

Another Ohio controversy is brewing over changes to the period for early voting.

Chapin’s new blog asks: when does Election Day *really* start in 2012?

Doug Chapin has a blog as part of the Program for Excellence in Election Administration.  Given Doug’s knowledge of the field, I think this has to be an addition to the daily RSS feed.

In a recent posting, Chapin blogged about the challenging 2012 presidential primary calendar, and how constant shifting deadlines (and rosters of candidates) create administrative and budgetary challenges for administrators.

I’ll add a little spice to the mix: early voting makes the question of “when exactly is election day again” even more complicated.  With the Federal Voting Assistance Program taking a muscular role in making sure that the MOVE Act is  being fully implemented, Bob Carey is sure to pay close attention to presidential primary ballots.

“Election Day” starts 45 days before the first announced primary.  If, as is being proposed, Florida moves its primary to January 31st, then the first presidential primary ballots will be mailed out on December 17th, and obviously prepared earlier than that.

The number of UOCAVA voters in NH is tiny–4221 in the 2008 EAVS.  But Florida reported 121,395 UOCAVA ballots transmitted in 2008 (largest in the nation).  When *exactly* is Election Day, again, Doug asks?  I have an answer: right around January 1st, 2012, when the first UOCAVA ballots are likely to start to arrive.

Crossposted to

Choosing our metaphors wisely

I like the story but I don’t like the metaphor used in this week’s Electionline.

Mindy Moretti writes:

Like alcohol during prohibition, it turns out that many Ohio voters actually liked many of the elections procedures recently banned by the state legislature.

The point is well-taken; the Ohio Legislature eliminated times and places for voting that we taken advantage of by 234,000 citizens in Franklin County alone.  Like the changes being made in a number of other states, including Florida, Texas, and Georgia, legislators argue that these changes will save money.  The fiscal impact note accompanying the bill, however, provides only slim evidence:

This provision shortens the amount of time for in-person absentee voting, which could reduce some costs for county boards of elections for operating these absent voter locations. Continue reading

VBM and the costs of elections: updates from CO, IN, and WA

Changes to early voting are on the administrative and legislative calendar in many states and jurisdictions.  A brief update from the mail bag:

  1. In Colorado, many counties have absentee ballot rates exceeding 70%.  This was the threshold, by the way, that encouraged Oregon and Washington to move to full vote by mail.  In Arapahoe County, less than 15% of the electorate is showing on up election day, and the county is contemplating a substantial reduction in precinct places, using election day vote centers instead.  Officials estimate that they can reduce the number of election judges by 2/3.
  2. County clerk Kathy Neal, in Summit County IN, is proposing that all primaries and elections held in odd number years be conducted completely by mail.  Neal expects this to result in a 25-30% cost savings by eliminating the need for election judges. Already , 40% of ballots come in via the mail in Sumit County.
  3. Pierce County, WA may finally have to move to full vote by mail elections, if a bill currently moving through the legislature passes and is signed by the governor.  Part of the argument is fiscal: county auditor Julie Anderson estimates that the county spent $16.97 per precinct place vote (10,000 in 2010) vs. $6.88 per vote by mail ballot (135,000).

DC learns about the week-long “election day”

This story in the Post is not a surprise to anyone who follows early voting.

All I can say to the Fenty and Gray forces is that early voting, in as much as we can generalize from other races in other states and localities, is more likely to reshuffle the electorate than change the electorate.

The fact that early voting is higher in Fenty strongholds may mean that Fenty has a better funded, better organized get out the vote operation.  But it may also mean that areas where Fenty has more support are areas with voters who are, on average, whiter, better educated, and have higher incomes.

One important difference, however, is that this is a local race, and we have little empirical data on the turnout effects of early voting in local races.  Many of us–me included–believe the impact is much greater in this contests.  In addition, this is a relatively “high profile” contest, which will should only increase the turnout impact of early voting.

The reports of confrontations at the early voting stations is a cause for concern.  I wonder what election day will bring.  The next week should be interesting.  Hope my friends Alysoun and Rokey at the DC office are hanging on.  It will be a busy week.

(Crossposted at

The Long Count in Oz

Paul Gronke and James Hicks
Early Voting Information Center
August 26, 2010
Crossposted at

I spent the end of last week in Bellingham, WA (a wonderful city by the way–but keep it a secret!) and experienced the impact of a “slow count” firsthand.  At least in Washington, the vote totals are updated daily, and for the press, this seems to provide an ongoing source of breathless coverage, as pundits (my friend Todd Donovan, a professor at Western Washington among them) speculate about the remaining ballots.

But much of our conversation as the week went on centered on the Australian election.

Nearly a week after polling day, as many as two million “special” ballots remain uncounted in the Australian federal election, and the balance of party control remains in question. While the parties continue to maneuver over potential governing coalitions, 14% of ballots cast have yet to be counted.

How did Australia get into this situation? Continue reading

Survey on the Performance of American Elections Data Available

As part of my pre-Thanksgiving clean-up, I have finally gotten around to posting the data sets and documentation for three surveys my colleagues and I did in 2007 and 2008 to gauge the quality of American elections. The studies were funded by Pew, as part of their Make Voting Work Initiative, along with the late, great JEHT Foundation and AARP (for the Nov. ’08 study). The studies were conducted in November 2007 (gubernatorial races in KY, LA, and MS), February 2008 (15 Super Tuesday states), and November 2008 (all 50 states). Lots of questions about how well elections were run, from the perspective of voters, plus some questions about why non-voters didn’t vote.

The data are all on the MIT dSpace site:

One feature of these datasets is that we did parallel administrations using the Internet and telephone (random digit dialing), so people interested in how these two survey modes differ should find things of interest to them there.

Alternative Voting News of the Week


SoS Jennifer Brunner is being criticized by state legislators because she allowed individual counties to choose whether to send absentee ballot applications to all voters, and whether to include return postage.  Brunner argues that the legislature failed to allocate enough funds.  The Legislature counters that not all allocated funds were used, and not sending them to all voters leads to inconsistency and unfairness.  Story in the Dispatch.


King County’s first all vote by mail election is underway.


Governor Kaine is proposing no-excuse absentee balloting, but local officials are worried about the cost implications.  A number publicly acknowledge, however, that no one pays much attention to the 17 excuses mandated under current law.  Story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The Arlington General Registrar says he likes the idea, and advocates a fully all by mail system.