Solving the Tower of Babel in Elections

This week, The IBM Center for the Business of Government released our report on the need for electronic data transaction standards (ETS) for election systems. In the report, we note that ETS would create a standard election terminology and standard framework for collecting and communicating these data. What would the benefit of this be for election officials (and researchers like us)?

First, election officials would be able to create “plug and play” elections systems, which would free them from being tied to a single vendor for election management and voting system software.

Second, it would all states to easily compare and communicate voter registration data across states. Approximately 27.5 million people move to another state between presidential elections, so keeping the state voter registration databases clean in a timely manner requires data sharing across states.

Finally, ETS means that there would be one standard definition and data collection format for all state election data. It would be much easier to study elections if we had common data from every state.

I have presented this report to the EAC (see previous posting) and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) and we are looking forward to working with states and the EAC to move toward the adoption of such a standard. There has been quite a bit of activity on this standard recently with IEEE, and hopefully a concensus can build around such a standard.