On Tuesday, The Pew Charitable Trusts released the latest version of the Elections Performance Index (EPI), its effort to take ideas proposed by Heather Gerken in The Democracy Index and turn them into flesh and blood (or at least electrons). The website captures what happened during the 2014 midterm election, adding to existing measures from 2008, 2010, and 2012, as well. Having data from a series of elections makes it possible to examine the process of change across time. Most importantly, now that the EPI has two midterm elections under its belt, it is possible to do an apples-to-apples comparison of each state with how it performed in successive midterm elections. The headline for this release — that the administration of elections in the U.S. continues to improve, slowly but surely — will certainly strike a discordant tone with many in the public, who have been fed a steady diet of stories claiming that American elections are rigged or vulnerable to hacking. Yet, the EPI points to a set of deeper truths about American elections that, one hopes, will gain the attention of the public, lawmakers, and election administrators once this election season is over. The EPI is constructed by combining 17 measures of election administration, most of which are performance outputs, such as the percentage of absentee ballots rejected and the percentage of UOCAVA ballots unreturned. As explained in the methodology document that accompanies the EPI website, these 17 measures were chosen because they provide a comprehensive view of election administration at the state level, conceived along two dimensions. Along the first dimension are the functional requirements for potential voters to have their ballots successfully counted: they must be registered, successfully cast a ballot, and the ballot must be accurately counted. Along the second dimension are the two normative goals we wish to achieve through our electoral process: it should be convenient to vote and the electoral process should be secure.
Conceived of this way, it is important that the EPI indicators reflect the nitty gritty of election administration. For the most part, a state can improve its performance by reforming or tightening up its administrative practices. For instance, a state that integrates its voter registration system with its Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) through online voter registration, will improve along the dimension that penalizes a state for rejected registrations and more provisional ballots.
Drilling down into the index, there are two indicators that provide the biggest boost to overall scores in 2014, which increased 5.1 points on average. The first is the so-called “data completeness” indicator, which gauges how completely a state provides core data to the Election Assistance Commission’s Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS). Readers of this posting likely know that the EAVS is a large, somewhat unruly instrument that states and localities have struggled to complete. The EPI doesn’t expect states to complete the survey entirely, but rather focuses on a small number of core measures that seem fundamental to gauging a state’s electoral workload. It seems reasonable, in other words, for a state to be expected to report how many new voter registrations were processed, how many provisional ballots were cast, and how many absentee ballots were returned for counting.
Full Article: electionlineWeekly.