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A Capital Idea: DC's "After-Action Report" for the April 26, 2011 Special

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[Image courtesy of The Prince of Petworth]

9:45AM Eastern - This item has been changed since posting to reflect that after-action reports are only required in DC for general elections - and to add links to previous reports. Thanks to DCBOEE's Alysoun McLaughlin for the info.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics DCBOEE has issued an "after-action report" on the April 26, 2011 special election. Such reports are required for general elections by D.C. law, specifically 3 DCMR 817.1 but DCBOEE made the decision to expand the practice to all elections.

I talk (a *lot*) here about the need for more and better data in the field of election administration - and while that can take the form of large, rigorous studies it can and should also include practical, hands-on self-examinations like that found in the DCBOEE report.

The report isn't the only one of its kind; many other jurisdictions across the country issue similar reports. Yet the DCBOEE has several features that I think are commendable to any election office looking to explain, justify or defend its performance:

  1. The report is laid out in a format that tracks the relevant regulation, as DCBOEE notes, "to allow for comparison with other elections held in the District" like the September 2010 primary election and last November's general election;
  2. It goes beyond simple recitations of turnout and results to assess where and when voters registered to vote and cast ballots; and
  3. It uses data to identify areas where performance was comparatively weak (e.g. setup of touchscreen voting machines) and attempts to diagnose what might have been the cause(s).

The one thing the report lacks - likely because it isn't required - is some accounting for the cost of administering the election. Such an accounting would be useful for policymakers and election administrators alike in evaluating whether or not citizens are seeing values as both voters and taxpayers.

That said - required or not - "after-action reports" like this one by DCBOEE are a hopeful sign for the field and something I hope more jurisdictions will embrace and emulate in the very near future.

P.S. DCBOEE is also one of the nation's pioneers in the use of Twitter. If you're interested, check them out at http://twitter.com/DCBOEE.

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