Journal of Election Administration, Research & Practice
A Partnership of the Institute for Election
Administration, Research & Practice
National Association of Election Officials
The Journal of Election Administration Research & Practice is a biannual e-journal developed in partnership between the National Association of Election Officials (also known as The Election Center) and the Auburn University Election Administration Initiative. It is designed to address the concerns of the practice, policy, research, vendor, and advocacy communities involved in the administration of elections in the US and abroad. This is a peer-reviewed praxis journal that provides greater breadth and depth to questions about the administration of election, offering a format and content that is accessible to practitioners, as well as content that informs better policy and research.
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Issues and Articles
Issue One - Journal of Election Administration, Research & Practice, Volume 01, Issue 01
•Policy & Practice
Ethics is at the core of elections. It sets the stage for the confidence people have in elections and results. The environment in which election officials work today has changed, particularly since the 2020 election. In the past, if a voter was confused or upset, we could sit down with them and talk. We could walk them through the process, show them our facilities, invite them to watch canvassing, and in the end they would feel satisfied. Now, too often they come in with preconceived ideas and are not there to learn but rather to verify and validate their misconceptions. This is an extraordinarily difficult environment in which to work, but ethics is the core of engaging the public in a positive way.
During the 2020 presidential election, record turnout, a global pandemic, misinformation, and foreign influences stressed our nation's election infrastructure like never before - and things haven't slowed down since then. Traditional methods used by local election officials to collaborate and share information are insufficient to meet today's demands. We need a new, real-time national network of local election officials to match the increased scrutiny, threats, and misinformation surrounding election administration. Two existing national organizations are poised to meet this need.
•Research & Practitioner Responses
Using a large-scale nationally representative survey of voters, we offer a depiction of voting by mail during the 2020 presidential election cycle. During this election-cycle mail voting was by far the most prevalent form for voting, accounting for 46% of all votes cast. The 2020 election-cycle was characterized not only by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also efforts in many states to expand the vote by mail option as a means of mitigating the effects of this health crisis. Running counter to this effort was former President Donald Trump's assertion that vote by mail was tainted by high levels of voter fraud. In this short article, we seek to create a profile of who voted by mail in the 2020 presidential election, the reasons they did so, and how these voters evaluated the overall process. In general, fear of COVID-19 was positively associated with the usage of mail in voting, although rates did vary by presidential vote choice with Trump supporters less likely to have relied on this form of voting. In terms of voter confidence, vote by mail actually scored higher than early in-person or Election Day precinct voting. Again, evaluations were colored through the lens of partisan perceptions as Trump voters demonstrated lower confidence levels for vote by mail. While the pandemic has abated, the future of vote by mail utilization levels would appear to hinge on a number of factors, including partisan perceptions of the process and the ease of the process within the state in question.
Elections Canada is widely respected as one of the oldest, most established, and well-regarded institutions of electoral management around the world. But what do Canadians think of their electoral management body? Furthermore, what individual-level variables can predict variations in levels of confidence, satisfaction, and perceptions of fairness in Elections Canada? This paper harnesses questions about Elections Canada asked in the Canadian Election Study from 2008-2021. It finds that Canadians have high levels of confidence, satisfaction and perceptions of the fairness of their electoral management body. Additionally, we find that, in general, confidence tends to increase with age, income, education, and political interest, but that women are likely to have lower levels of trust.
The global pandemic led many states to expand the use of convenience voting in the 2020 elections. Following the election, then-president Trump alleged fraud, and many of his supporters expressed negative feelings towards the process. However, many experts argued that 2020 was possibly the most secure election in history. We therefore ask: What is the relationship between voting method and trust in the vote tabulation process? To answer this, we rely on original survey data collected immediately after the 2020 election. We find that citizen attitudes are more a function of the outcome of the election than the administration of it. Those who see their candidate lose have a harder time accepting the outcome and look for explanations beyond simply backing the less popular candidate. This is informative for states considering permanently expanding convenience voting - doing so does not appear to be related to more negative attitudes.
Local election officials are united by a shared investment in their responsibility to manage and care for voting and elections. Funding, however, has not kept pace for election officials to do the important work of serving an increasingly diverse electorate. The challenges are varied and unlikely to be resolved overnight unless election officials receive multifaceted and collaborative support and voters are well served. Given that election administrators still lack established and continual government revenue streams, civil society partners continue to step up to narrow and close the gaps between what the field needs and what is available. With the critical caveat that self-centered agendas and ulterior motives are unacceptable, philanthropy has the flexibility and resources to test and pilot improvements that can later be adopted by election administrators and government at scale. In this article, Democracy Fund - a 501(c)(3) private nonpartisan foundation - highlights some of the work civil society partners have done in support of election administration, and provides insight into the organization's efforts to build a trustworthy and defensible election system that centers the needs of a representative electorate.