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.
Issue Two - Journal of Election Administration, Research & Practice, Volume 01, Issue 02
•Policy & Practice
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established twenty years ago with the passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). HAVA marked an important moment in the history of election administration in the United States. Unlike other democracies around the world, American elections are highly localized. Each state has its own election laws and regulations, with procedures varying across 10,000 local election jurisdictions.
Partisan control and candidate races may have dominated the headlines during the 2022 midterm election but voters across the country also weighed in on a variety of ballot measures, spanning everything from abortion access to this publication's area of interest - the nuts and bolts of election administration
In spite of the divisive, partisan rhetoric beleaguering election administration, productive and sustainable election policy must incorporate the expertise of election officials and the constructive input of both parties. In that vein, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) Elections Project coordinates a network of election officials to offer policy reforms that provide a realistic, bipartisan path forward for states grappling with the challenges of election administration in an increasingly interconnected, digitized, and highly skeptical world. There is a false dichotomy in state legislative debates about voting policy in which a complete expansion of all voting options is cast as the sole alternative to draconian voting rights restrictions. BPC seeks to transcend the partisan polarization that defines today's political climate by putting the expertise of state and local administrators, evidence-based policy, and the experience of voters front and center.
In 2012, as part of the reflections on the first ten years of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), many in the election community were discussing whether the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was worth keeping. In fact, following a Harvard Kennedy School conference on that topic, former EAC Commissioner Ray Martinez penned an article raising that very question in the title and stating, "Although [the EAC] has discharged much of its original mandate, much work remains to be done." (Martinez 2013: 190). 2 Fast forward ten years to the present as we observe the twentieth anniversary of HAVA, while our democracy and the election administration community face challenges that may have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago. Today, we are in a place where the EAC is not only worth keeping but is also needed more than ever. However, for the agency to meet its full potential and support the administration of elections across the country, we need to move past the lingering attitudes that marred the agency's reputation a decade ago (when people were debating whether it was still needed) and change how we envision the EAC, as well as fund this vital institution going forward. When Commissioner Martinez published his article, the EAC had largely allocated most of the original HAVA funds that Congress had appropriated, and the likelihood of additional federal funds looked bleak. Furthermore, some members of Congress wanted to see the agency eliminated. 3 Some mistakes occurred that are attributable to the growing pains of a young agency, but for the most part, the agency's critics fell reliably along partisan lines of attack that were politically advantageous at the time. 4
In the fall of 2009, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk embarked on an unprecedented effort to design, engineer, manufacture, and implement the first publicly owned voting system in the United States; an initiative that would later be identified as Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP). Through this effort, Los Angeles County reimagined the voting experience in the nation's largest local voting jurisdiction, transformed the commercial voting systems marketplace, and stretched the reins of its regulatory environment by setting a new standard for voting system design that prioritizes usability, security, and accessibility.
•Research & Practitioner Responses
Amidst a torrent of unfounded accusations that the 2020 presidential contest was illegitimate if not outright stolen, numerous controversies have erupted across American state legislatures over ballot access. Our focus is Georgia, a battleground state where legislative changes in 2021 to voting rules - in particular, to available days of early in-person voting - were couched in language about election integrity. We show that the legislative back-and-forth in Georgia over early voting - where, for example, Sunday early voting was first eliminated in a proposed election reform bill and then reinserted - reflects racial regularities in use of this voting method. Among other things, Black voters in Georgia are more likely than White voters to cast ballots on the early voting days scrutinized during debates over a new voting law. Nonetheless, there is no evidence that offering early voting on any particular day has any substantive implications for election integrity. The recent battle in Georgia over ballot access and early voting in particular illustrates the continued grip of racial politics in the United States, even concerning technical debates over election rules and procedures.
Recent efforts in states to institute voter identification requirements have been the subject of debate across the political spectrum. Some defend these laws as the last bastion against voter fraud, while others view these laws as a threat to open and free elections, harkening back to the days of segregation, dubbed "Jim Crow 2.0." Given the importance of this topic, there is a need to bring clarity amid the contradictory findings in this literature. We do so by 1) using a theoretically/historically derived timeframe for data collection and analysis; 2) running two types of hazards statistical models; and 3) operationalizing independent variables in a manner consistent with the existing literature. Finally, we include controls for the Southern states. Similar to extant literature, we find that GOP control of state institutions is critical, but that after controlling for the South, the causal relationship between race and passage of voter ID laws is spurious.
Voter education by election officials can be an effective intervention to mitigate mail ballot rejections, as they can help voters fill informational gaps about how to vote. Leveraging Facebook communications by North Carolina's local election officials (LEOs) during the 2020 U.S. election, we find that when LEOs prioritized information about mail voting in their voter education efforts, mail voters were more likely to cast a ballot that was accepted. These efforts also benefited young and racial and ethnic minority mail voters. Our findings have practical implications for election officials to ensure that voters avoid mistakes when voting by mail, and theoretical implications for assessments of the indirect effects of voting reforms.