National: New Survey Highlights the 2014 Voting Experience | Pew Charitable Trusts

A nationwide study of voters’ experiences during November’s midterm federal election found that approximately 40 percent of respondents cast their ballots early or by mail. The 2014 Survey of the Performance of American Elections (SPAE)—conducted by Charles Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin distinguished professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts—surveyed more than 10,000 registered voters nationwide. Among the findings:

41 percent of voters cast ballots before Election Day.
o 16 percent voted early in person or in-person absentee.
o 25 percent voted by mail.
o 59 percent voted in person on Election Day.

Voting Blogs: Colorado opens its books to the people and data geeks | electionlineWeekly

There’s a lot of talk these days about transparent and open governments and recently the Colorado Secretary of State’s office put their money where their mouth is and created a statewide elections data portal. The Accountability in Colorado Elections (ACE) site was launched in late July and it provides, through a series of interactive maps, charts and tables, Colorado election data by county. Although all of this information has long been publicly available, it was not centrally located, thus sending those seeking the information to as many as 64 different websites and elections office. This is a big step forward in the world of elections data. “Over a century ago, states started reporting election returns in a centralized, uniform fashion, which was an important step in reassuring the public that election results were determined above-board,” said Charles Stewart, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at MIT. “Now, the big question is, ‘what are election officials DOING in their jobs?’ Something like ACE helps answer that question.  Colorado is the first state to put all of the county information in one centralized location.

National: Nearly Half Of Americans Live In Places Where Election Officials Admit Long Lines Are A Problem | Huffington Post

Nearly half of Americans live in precincts where long lines at the voting booth were a problem in the 2012 election cycle, according to a survey conducted by President Barack Obama’s Presidential Commission on Election Administration. The survey of over 3,000 local elections officials also found that on average, poll workers received far less training than the eight hours most elections experts recommend. First-time workers in smaller jurisdictions received an average of just 2.5 hours of training, while workers in larger jurisdictions received an average of 3.6 hours of training, according to the survey. “It looks like there’s not a whole lot of training going on, and my question is, what is the quality of that training?” said Charles Stewart, a professor at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology who presented the results of the survey during the commission’s final public hearing on Tuesday.

Voting Blogs: Customer Service for Elections | The Canvass

Voters have a right to expect good customer service when they go to vote. And that means full service—not just fast service. Therefore, speed isn’t the number one goal for election administrators. First and foremost, elections need to meet legal obligations, says Merle King, executive director of the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University, in Georgia. Boiled down, these obligations include running accurate elections in which all eligible voters can vote.  Where does that leave customer service values such as convenience and speed? These are still important, judging by recent activity. For instance, President Obama has established a bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration, with a goal of improvinig voters’ experiences, and several pieces of federal legislation have been introduced, although none appear to be moving. In addition, reports and recommendations on election management are pouring forth.

National: Why Minorities Usually Wait Longer to Vote in Elections | ABC

Racial minorities waited a lot longer than whites to vote last November. Lines weren’t a big issue for most voters, according to a new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Charles Stewart III, but they were a huge issue for some – and those people tended to be African-American or Hispanic and live in urban areas. African Americans waited an average of 23 minutes to vote while Hispanics waited 19 minutes and whites just 12 minutes. Those numbers are startling when you factor in that about two-thirds of all voters waited less than 10 minutes to cast their ballots. That means some people, albeit a small percentage, waited a very long time. Stewart found that just three percent of voters waited more than an hour, with the average wait time at about 110 minutes. The author of the post you’re reading waited nearly three hours in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

National: Blacks’ Election-Day Waits Nearly Double Those Of Whites, But Why? | NPR

On Election Day 2012, black voters waited on average nearly twice as long to vote as did white voters, while the wait time for Hispanic voters fell in between those two groups. So say the available data, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology political scientist Charles Stewart III. He decided to see what he could learn by examining statistics on Election Day waits and sums up his findings in a research paper titled “Waiting to Vote in 2012.” Stewart says the national average wait for white voters was 12 minutes, while that same metric for African-Americans was 23 minutes. For Hispanics, it was 19 minutes. Although it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that some form of discrimination might have been at work, Stewart suggests that other factors could be at play, such as geography.

National: Voting Lines Study Shows Minorities Faced Longer Average Wait Times To Cast Ballots | Huffington Post

new report by Charles Stewart III, a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shows that non-white voters faced longer average wait times at the polls than white voters did in November.

From the report:

Viewed nationally, African Americans waited an average of 23 minutes to vote, compared to 12 minutes for whites; Hispanics waited 19 minutes. While there are other individual-level demographic difference present in the responses, none stands out as much as race. For instance, the average wait time among those with household incomes less than $30,000 was 12 minutes, compared to 14 minutes for those in households with incomes greater than $100,000. Strong Democrats waited an average of 16 minutes, compared to an average of 11 minutes for strong Republicans. Respondents who reported they had an interest in news and public affairs “most of the time” waited an average of 13.2 minutes, compared to 12.8 minutes among those who had “hardly any” interest.

The study points out that the findings don’t suggest discrimination on an individual basis, but rather a failure by precincts with high levels of minority voters, typically in urban areas, to appropriately address the issue of long lines. For example, the difference in wait times between black and white voters in the same zip code was less than a minute on average.

California: Popularity of vote-by-mail adds extra complication to counting votes accurately | California Forward

Are absentee ballots the new hanging chads? More than 4 million presidential votes were lost in the 2000 election which was notoriously plagued by the hanging chads fiasco. Although voting technology has since vastly improved, the steady rise in absentee voting may undermine any gains in accuracy. Why is this important in California? Because last year’s presidential election was the first statewide general election in which a majority of Californians, 51 percent or 6.8 million to be exact, voted absentee. By comparison, less than 3 percent of California ballots cast in the 1962 general election were submitted by mail.

Voting Blogs: Pew’s Election Performance Index | Heather Gerken/Election Law Blog

A few years ago, I proposed creating a “Democracy Index” that would rank states and localities based on how well they run elections.  Since then, the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonpartisan organization well known for promoting data-driven governance, has tried to put these ideas into action.  It created the nation’s first Elections Performance Index, which was released this week.  The EPI measures state performance based on seventeen indicators, which include the length of lines, the accuracy of voting technology, and the percentage of voters who experienced problems registering or casting an absentee ballot. The process for creating the Index was remarkable – as serious and professional an undertaking as I’ve witnessed.  Pew itself devoted significant funding and top-notch staffers to the project.  It also assembled an extraordinary group of advisors, which included some  of the top state and local election administrators in the country.  The legendary Charles Stewart, the former chair of MIT’s political science department, served as the data expert (though that seems a bit like calling a Ferrari a “car”).  The Pew staff and advisors — along with numerous outside experts Pew called in to poke and prod and test and challenge the validity of the indicators – narrowed down a list of almost fifty potential performance indicators to the seventeen you see on the website.  A huge amount of effort was put in to be sure the indicators were measuring something meaningful, and that the data gave us genuine signals rather than noise.  I am frankly amazed that Pew came up with so many good measures – it’s a testament to the creativity of the team, especially the political scientists who were involved.

National: Discrepancies in voter waiting times draw scrutiny | The Bulletin

With studies suggesting that long lines at the polls cost Democrats hundreds of thousands of votes in November, party leaders are beginning a push to make voting and voter registration easier, setting up a likely new conflict with Republicans over a deeply polarizing issue. White House officials have told congressional leaders that President Barack Obama plans to press for action on Capitol Hill. House and Senate Democrats have introduced bills that would require states to provide online voter registration and allow at least 15 days of early voting, among other things. Fourteen states are considering whether to expand early voting, including the battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Virginia, according to FairVote, a nonprofit that advocates electoral change. Florida, New York, Texas and Washington are looking at whether to ease registration and establish preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

National: Voter Waiting Time Disparities Draw Democrats’ Scrutiny | NYTimes.com

With studies suggesting that long lines at the polls cost Democrats hundreds of thousands of votes in November, party leaders are beginning a push to make voting and voter registration easier, setting up a likely new conflict with Republicans over a deeply polarizing issue. White House officials have told Congressional leaders that the president plans to press for action on Capitol Hill, and Democrats say they expect him to highlight the issue in his State of the Union address next week. Democrats in the House and Senate have already introduced bills that would require states to provide online voter registration and allow at least 15 days of early voting, among other things. Fourteen states are also considering whether to expand early voting, including the battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Virginia, according to FairVote, a nonprofit group that advocates electoral change. Florida, New York, Texas and Washington are looking at whether to ease registration and establish preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

National: Report sees decline in voting glitches … but vote-by-mail sparks concern | NBC

The good news about voting technology is that the upgrades put into place since the controversial 2000 presidential election have made ballot tallies twice as accurate as they were — but the bad news is that the rise of early vote-by-mail systems could erode those gains. That’s the assessment from the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project, which has been monitoring voting technology and election administration nationwide for nearly a dozen years — ever since the “hanging-chad” debacle of the Bush vs. Gore election. Coming less than three weeks before this year’s Election Day, the project’s latest report includes some recommendations that could improve the election process in as little as two years. But first, project co-director Charles Stewart III, a political science professor at MIT, wants to celebrate the good news. “Voter registration is gradually getting better,” he told me. “Voting machines are clearly better. This is a voting-technology feel-good story. We’re getting the voter registration process into the 20th century, if not the 21st century.”

Voting Blogs: I Have CONFIDENCE … in the Election System? | Election Academy

Very often, when you listen to election policy debates, you hear one (and usually both) sides invoking the value of “voter confidence”. The term isn’t very well-defined, but it is thought to capture a general sense of satisfaction with and acceptance of the election system. It also has a certain appeal; if democracy rests on the consent of the governed, confidence can be considered an important measure of the degree to which voters accept the results of elections and the frequent transfer of power between parties or individuals who otherwise fiercely disagree. Fortunately, voter confidence has been a popular subject of study by political scientists, who examine responses to public opinion surveys to divine how confident (or not) voters are about voting systems and procedures.

Voting Blogs: The Empty Mailbox: Why Aren’t Election Offices Responding to EAC Data Requests? | Doug Chapin/PEEA

There is nothing quite like new data to set the election geek world into a frenzy of delight. The EAC’s release yesterday of the latest report on the Uniformed and Overseas Civilians Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) is the latest information we have about the fate of ballots cast by military and overseas voters. The report (teased mercilessly on Twitter by the EAC in a masterstroke of geek marketing, by the way) is especially important as it reflects the first data reflecting changes made by the MOVE Act of 2009.

The data contains lots of good news for anyone who cares about the ability of military and overseas voters to participate in democracy from a distance and appears to validate somewhat the efforts by Congress and state/local election offices to improve the UOCAVA balloting process.

National: What Hath HAVA Wrought? Consequences, Intended and Not, of the Post-Bush v. Gore Reforms | Charles Stewart, MIT

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA)1 is the most important direct federal response to the 2000 electoral fiasco in Florida. HAVA had many provisions, some directly inspired by the controversy, others that came along for the ride. In addition to mandating certain changes in how states conducted federal elections, HAVA appropriated $3b for the improvement…