2006 New Mexico General Election Research

Mike, Lonna Atkeson, and I wrote a report on the implementation of optical scan voting in the 2006 elections in New Mexico. The UNM press release to the report can be found here (I quote most below) and the report itself can be found here.

During the 2006 general election, researchers from the University of New Mexico, California Institute of Technology and the University of Utah studied the election. Today their studies were released as “The New Mexico Election Administration Report: The 2006 November General Election.”

This report is the product of three independent research projects that were focused on election administration in New Mexico during the 2006 election. The principal researchers in the report were UNM Political Science Professor Lonna Atkeson, Dr. R. Michael Alvarez from the California Institute of Technology and Dr. Thad Hall of the University of Utah.

The results of this study will be useful to the federal government when the U.S. Congress begins to debate moving from electronic voting and replacing those machines with optical scan paper ballots voting machines. With the passage of legislation mandating optical scan ballots in the state, New Mexico leads the nation from a predominantly electronic voting system to one that mandated optical scan paper ballots for elections.

“There is legislation in Congress pushing the country to move to a paper ballot system to provide a verifiable voting record. New Mexico has already taken that step and served as a test state in 2006 to show the effectiveness of this kind of voting technology in reaffirming confidence in the electoral process,” said Dr. Atkeson.

Prior to the 2006 election cycle, New Mexico implemented election reforms designed to create fairer, more accurate and voter-verifiable election administration. This new system was designed to provide a paper trail so future elections could be audited for greater accuracy and to enhance voter confidence in the New Mexico election system. The statewide implementation took place in the fall 2006 general election. Prior to this election at least six different voting technologies were used throughout New Mexico.

“New Mexico is on the cutting edge of election administration and has executive and local leadership forging aggressively ahead with the intent of building a better, stronger, efficacious and more voter-confident voting system,” according to the report.

Part one of the study focused on Election Day observations in three (3) N.M. counties: Bernalillo, Doña Ana and Santa Fe. The study found that overall the new voting technology worked on Election Day, but better training of poll workers and judges – as well as better education of poll workers, judges and voters – should enhance the accountability and quality of the election experience.

Part two examined the attitudes and experiences of a random sample of poll workers in Bernalillo, Doña Ana and Santa Fe counties. The survey showed that poll workers need the rules governing voter identification clarified, ensure that polling places are accessible to the disabled and to improve poll worker training to better reflect Election Day realities.

Part three looked at the experiences of a random sample of registered voters in New Mexico’s First Congressional District. The report examines factors associated with the voting experience, experience with the ballot, the polling site, voter interaction with poll workers, and voter confidence.
Copies of the report are available on the UNM Vote 2006 Web site at Vote2006 UNM.