UOCAVA Report Released by EAC

The EAC just announced the release of the 2007 UOCAVA report to Congress (in the interests of full disclosure, I am one of three contractors who worked with the EAC on this report).

The press release is here, and the report and other UOCAVA materials can be downloaded here. The EAC is holding a one-day conference on UOCAVA today, and I hope we’ll get some reports in the blogosphere.

From my perspective, admittedly very close to this process, working on the UOCAVA report was a fascinating but often frustrating experience. EAC has taken a tough line with the states in this report, but I think a necessary one. As the press release states, many states and local jurisdictions did not track the specific data required by HAVA” (check the response rate information contained in Table 1)

Monitoring compliance with UOCAVA and some portions of HAVA is nearly impossible, given the data that are being reported to the EAC (Dan Tokaji blogged on this point a few days ago.)

The EAC also recognized the limitations of their own data collection instrument. From the press release: “Low response rates may also be attributed to EAC’s online survey collection instrument, which many states found difficult to use and time-consuming.” The variability in the UOCAVA environment faced by different states doesn’t make this any easier–for some states, UOCAVA is all about military voters, while for others, UOCAVA ballots are primarily sent to citizens working abroad (there are some charts and figures in the body of the report that illustrate this point).

Collecting valid, reliable data across 50 states and territories and more than 8000 local election jurisdictions is a difficult task. What makes it even harder is that the data are used by different stakeholders, each of whom has different needs.

For academics, missing data are not a problem as long as we know something about the process by which the data are collected.

Activist groups want to know why one vote was counted and another was not. Some care about voting machines; others look at provisional and absentee ballots; while still others work on disabled access. Their data needs are not necessarily compatible with the scholars.

Finally, for members of Congress and many of the individual states and jurisdictions, they seem most concerned that their state’s data are accurate, and are less concerned with comprehensive coverage.

The challenge for the EAC is figuring out how to satisfy all of them without simultaneously alienating all of them.