electionline.org has released their new report Election Reform: What’s Changes, What Hasn’t and Why. The report is a gem of interesting information about election reform activities in the states. The report has six major areas of focus:
Requirements for voter-verified paper audit trails;
Requirements for voter ID requirements;
Statewide voter registration databases;
Early in-person voting; and
As is typically the case with electionline.org reports, it is comprehensive and provides a great deal of information about key aspects of the election reform efforts that are ongoing.
One of the interesting things I did in reading the report was to compare the state where I live now—Utah—the state where I used to live—Georgia—with New York, the supposed bastion of east coast liberalism. What you see when you do the comparison is actually quite interesting. Utah and Georgia are both much more progressive toward election reform than is New York. In fact, the folks at electionline.org make clear that New York is probably the most conservative state in the nation in regards to election reform.
Consider: New York has made no effort to enfranchise its disabled voters by acquiring accessible technology. They have made no effort to crate a statewide voter registration database. They have very conservative rules for counting provisional ballots (New York has the same rules as those in Ohio that came under such scrutiny in 2004). New York also makes it very difficult for voters to vote: absentee voting can only be done with a valid excuse and there are no provisions in law for any form of early voting.
By contrast, Georgia and Utah both have all of the things New York does not, with the exception of the provisional voting rules, which are restrictive in these states as well.
One other interesting aspect of the report is the discussion of voter-verified paper audit trails. 2006 will be the first year in which most states that have VVPAT rules that require the paper ballot to be counted in case of a recount will have to actually count the paper receipts in case of a recount. Given that approximately 75 percent of states this year will have long ballots of state races—in addition to federal and local races plus amendments—it is likely that one of these states will have a recount. It will be interesting if any state has a statewide recount like the one in Washington state in 2004; these states will need to have effective processes and procedures in place in order to recount by hand a million or so ballots (hand recounts are generally done in teams of two or four). This experience will likely inform other states about the best way of implementing such recounts in the future.
It is clear that 2006 will be a very large experiment in many states testing the effectiveness of election reform. It will be interesting to see how effective these experiments are in improving public confidence in elections and in generating better voting experiences for everyone.