Category Archives: election administration

Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office Does Focus Group with Presiding Judges

Denise Lamb, the Deputy County Clerk in Santa Fe County, contacted me to share the results of a couple of focus groups her staff ran after the recent election with poll judges. In late April, her election coordinator, Pat Hummer, hosted two focus groups for presiding judges to, “find out their thoughts about how we could improve elections.” The focus groups were very productive and Pat built the attached spreadsheet summarizing her findings and the actions they will take in response.

This is an awesome idea and one in which Mike, Thad and I advocate in a book we are writing on evaluating elections. I have posted Denise and Pat’s outcome report here Summary of Results of the PJ Focus Group because I think this provides a great example of how feedback can lead to productive and positive changes in election administration practices and how LEOs can seek out useful information fairly cheaply.

A number of the policy changes in the summary are consistent with recommendations we have made based upon our election observations and our surveys of poll workers, which shows how different types of data collection methods can produce complimentary results and reinforce findings. In addition, many new items appeared that could inform future data collection efforts and tweaks in current election administration practices.

Turkish election preview

The OSCE/ODIHR’s Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) has issued a report in anticipation of the upcoming parliamentary elections, to be held on June 12, 2011.  The full text of the report is available at, but I thought a few features might spark the interest of our readers.

Most importantly, Turkish law has been changed so that, for the first time, parties and candidates can purchase advertisements (I think this refers to radio and television, but the report does not make this clear, see pg. 9).  Candidates are also awarded free air time during the last seven days of the campaign:

Parties are entitled to two 10-minute slots on radio and television each. Additional airtime is granted to parties with a parliamentary group (10 minutes), the party in power or senior partner in a coalition government (20 minutes), minor partners in the coalition (15 minutes) and the main opposition party  (10 minutes). Independent candidates do not qualify for free airtime.

Surely, however, the start of paid media advertising should make this a fascinating campaign.

Advertising has to be understood within the context of continuing tension over restrictions on speech, viz:

Law No. 6112 ‘On the Establishment of Radio and Television Enterprises and Broadcasting’ (hereafter, Law on Broadcasting)  and the Law on Political Parties continue to prohibit, in a disproportionate manner, activities that might be perceived as insulting ‘Turkishness’, the republic or state bodies and institutions, national and moral values of the community and reforms and principles of Atatürk, inciting enmity or hatred among the population and promoting terrorist organizations.

The requirement previously to use only Turkish in all advertisements has been relaxed, however.

In terms of election administration, the Supreme Board of Elections (SBE) will, for the first time, not require fingers to be inked after voting; they have decided that their national voter registration system provides sufficient protection against fraud and double voting.  They are using transparent ballot boxes, again for the first time.  Most of the other changes since the last election, in 2007, create a more transparent and faster process for counting and reporting results.

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.

Why Rig Elections? Because it Works.

The Economist has an article this week on why people rig elections.  The answer is, because it works really well.  As the summary report of the key findings notes:

  • Using dirty tactics during elections helps politicians that are already in office. If they use illegal practices to win elections, they can expect to be in office around 2.5 times longer than if they participated in fair elections;
  • Dirty elections are bad for economic growth by skewing politicians’ incentives towards pursuing bad policies rather than good ones;
  • Checks and balances are effective in reducing the incentives to cheat and implement bad policies.
  • International aid has no clear effect on the quality of elections, unless there are effective checks and balances.
  • Small, poor but resource-rich countries are more prone to dirty elections.

In short, as the Economist notes,

Incumbents running in clean elections average six and a bit years in office; in rigged votes, 16 years. “Well, duh,” says Duncan Green, head of research at Oxfam, a British charity. Fair enough, it is obvious—but ten extra years may be more than expected.

Strikingly, the authors contend that “dirty elections are bad for economic growth by skewing politicians’ incentives.” This is because, they find, good economic performance makes a huge difference to an incumbent’s chance of re-election whether the vote is free or rigged, adding about three years’ to his or her tenure. Although economic success wins rewards in both systems, in clean ones, it adds 40% to a president’s time, whereas in dirty ones, the rewards of growth are swamped by those of rigging, which more than doubles the time in power. So rigging makes the economy less important to a president’s future—a rejoinder to the Chinese claim that in developing countries “managed democracy” is better for growth than an electoral free-for-all.

Obviously, not all developing countries rig the polls. Big nations seem less likely to rig than small ones—perhaps because they have more competing interest groups, making it harder to fake credibility by staging a poll win. Large government revenues from raw-material taxes makes rigging more likely by increasing incentives to get your hands on all that money. A few things make rigging less likely: term limits, the independence of the courts, parliament or press. And aid makes almost no difference. Even if outsiders are keeping the entire country afloat, their influence is patchy. As Mr Karzai earlier showed.

The full report can be found here.