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Data for Democracy Four Years Later: Pew's Election Administration By The Numbers

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[Image courtesy of Pew Center on the States]

There's nothing like a good sequel, so - on the heels of an updated military and overseas voting report released a few weeks ago - the election team at Pew has released Election Administration by the Numbers, an update of its 2008 Data for Democracy (page | full report).

Pew's work in this area is part of their larger interest in developing an Elections Performance Index - a data-driven, evidence-based tool for assessing how well state election systems are serving their citizens as both voters and taxpayers. Pew's Index, inspired by the Democracy Index work of Yale Law School professor Heather Gerken, is a (typically "Pew-y") hands-on effort to use data (as opposed to "anecdata") to understand and shape election policy.

From the executive summary:

At a time when states, counties, and municipalities face tighter budget constraints, Pew is committed to helping governments use both existing and improved data to make smart investments in election administration.

By strengthening data collection and using common terms, states will be able to build upon current efforts and better benchmark and evaluate how their election system is performing.

To that end, Election Administration By the Numbers looks at several sources of election data that already exist and explores their strengths and weaknesses and continues the very important conversation of these data sources illuminate what we know (and don't know) about the state of election administration in the United States. Topics covered include the EAC's Election Administration and Voting Survey, the Census Bureau's Voting and Registration Supplement, familiar numbers like registration and turnout rates, popular concepts like voter confidence, and derived measures like residual voting (the incredibly useful brainchild of MIT professor and Pew advisor Charles Stewart).

The report is not itself an Index, but the methodological and policy questions brought forward by Election Administration by the Numbers will be crucial to the continued development of evidence-based assessments in the field of elections.

Kudos to the Pew elections team - especially Sean Greene and Zach Markovits (with significant assists from Andreas Westgaard and Aleena Oberthur); for them, the Index has long been a labor of love. Their devotion to data shines through the entire report - and the field of elections is better off for it.

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