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Election Data Collection Grant Program Evaluation

Comment  Creator  Last Modified 

Once the analysis of the data is complete, what is the next step? Will the EAC compile best practices or guidelines?

 

Does the EAC or Congress plan to propose legislation based on the results to make the State’s data collection processes uniform?

 

Is there a specific approach to data collection that is preferred by the EAC?

 

What are the consequences for test States that stray from the recommended course of action?

 

In reviewing the timeline, it seems unreasonable that the states would be able to implement such ambitious goals (in some cases, overhauling the elections management system, or, in Minnesota’s case, 11 different sub-projects) in time for the November 2008 election. Is this a concern? Has work already begun on these projects? According to the timeline, initial contact with grantees is to be completed by September 19, 2008.  Perhaps I am missing this in the documents and if so please disregard.  However, the timing is still a concern if the states must conduct an overhaul of their elections management system.

 

nkelley 09/12/2008 04:51 PM

Questions about ICF

I understand that ICF International does a lot of contract work for various government agencies.  I have a few questions about ICF.

  1. How were they chosen to oversee this project?  Who made that decision?
  2. What expertise do they bring?
  3. Do they have any potential conflict of interest?  In particular, do they have any business dealings with vendors, individual states, or other relevant organizations?
bsimons 09/15/2008 01:31 PM

Thanks

As the newest member of the Board of Advisors, I would like to express my appreciation for this on-line tool.  Those of us who don't live in DC don't have to take long trips to attend a meeting, the EAC is saved the cost of our travel expenses, and the public can easily view our discussions.

That said, I have one small request.  It would be nice if the time provided for making comments would take into account the three hour difference between East Coast and West Coast times.  So, rather than have the discussion terminated at 5pm EDT, perhaps the discussion could be terminated at 5pm PDT.

I have several comments that I'll list separately so that folks can respond to individual comments.

Thanks again for providing this interactive tool.

bsimons 09/15/2008 01:25 PM

Program evaluation


How will the program be evaluated to determine if the money was effectively utilized?

  1. Quality of data.  One approach would be to randomly select some precincts in each of the participating states and to verify the accuracy of the data with phone and mail follow-ups.
  2. Completeness of data.  Have the states provided all of the information that they have committed to provide?
  3. Speed.  How long did it take for the states to collect and process the data? 
  4. Follow-up.  While the focus of the project is data collection, one would hope that individual states would follow up if they observed anomalies.   For example, if an abnormally large number of undervotes were registered in a particular precinct, will the state investigate to determine if those undervotes might have been caused by a technical failure of the voting machines, a poorly designed ballot, or something else?  If not, what is the value in obtaining this information?
bsimons 09/15/2008 01:32 PM

Technology failures

Will states track voting machine failures, both in terms of numbers and times that the machines were unavailable?  Will states do the same for poll books and other technologies related to voter registration databases?  If not, how will we be able to determine if the information that is collected has been impacted by technological failures?


bsimons 09/15/2008 01:32 PM

Providing public access to the information


Will the EAC make all of the information gathered in the studies accessible to the public?

Is there a commitment to provide all of the information on the web in a uniform format that is amenable to quantitative study and analysis? 

bsimons 09/15/2008 01:39 PM

Comparisons


One way in which the effectiveness of the funding will be analyzed is by comparing states which received funding with comparable ones that did not.

  1. How will the comparable states be selected?  Can we state specifically what criteria will be used?
  2. Who will make the selection of comparable states to study?
  3. Will anyone be looking at those states that submitted grant applications but were rejected?
  4. Is there some way of determining if distributing smaller sums of money to a larger number of states might have had more impact?  Might standardized tools provided by the EAC have helped?
bsimons 09/15/2008 01:39 PM

Providing a uniform method of data collection


It would be very useful if all of the data that is collected could be presented in a uniform fashion to facilitate analysis and evaluation.  This has been recognized by some of the proposals that discuss the use of XML (Extensible Markup Language).  XML is a general purpose markup language that allows people to create tailored versions for their specific needs.

However, there already is a widely recognized markup language for elections, namely the Election Markup Language (EML).  EML was created by an international task group operating under OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards).  This task group included election officials, representatives of vendors, and academics.  I've been told that at least some vendors, and perhaps all of them, would like to have a common language.  Using a common language would facilitate analysis by election officials and academics, as well as concerned citizens.

In addition to ease of use and interoperability, using EML would save states the cost of developing yet another markup language.  This money could be better put to other uses.

bsimons 09/15/2008 02:59 PM

Greetings,

I appreciate Congress providing the Board of Advisors a role in reviewing this program.  I realize this not a program requested by EAC.  The five states are excellent laboratories in Democracy to determine if there are some answers to the vexing challenges that EAC Election Day Survey has imposed on State and local governments.  I believe this responsibility requires a committee of the Board of Advisors to stay abreast of the complex program and prepare the members of the Board of Adviors to fully review the finding of EAC via ICF International.

I found this to be an ambitious program that will be difficult to execute in an election year and the months following prior March 09.  Many of the outcomes could possibly be beneficial to a number of states; however, various technologies will not alway transfer.

Until recently I had not realized that the grant actually required the five states to have something in place for the 08 reporting cycle. 

It bears note that the scope of the program is broader that EAC Election Day Survey.  For the firs time the reporting to Washington of precinct level election results is part of a program.  With regard to this, I believe some states have already figured out how to convert voting system vendor output files to a central file.  Other states continue to struggle with this.

While there is great variety among the five states, it is difficult to imagine that the final goal of identifying transferable solutions will be uniformly achieved due to the differences among the states.

It is an ambitious program and may well create some breakthroughs.

 

 

 

cthomas 09/15/2008 03:34 PM

Questions about ICF

  1. How were they chosen to oversee this project?  Who made that decision?

A contract was competitively bid through Acquisition Services Directorate (AQD), a government procurement contracting agency. AQD awarded the contract to ICF in July 2008.

  1. What expertise do they bring?

     For more than 35 years, ICF has partnered with government agencies at all levels, providing policy analysis, as well as program management and evaluation services. ICF employs a staff of over 3,000 who serve clients in various locations across the country. ICF has a history of designing and implementing program evaluations to foster change and improve performance results.

 

  1. Do they have any potential conflict of interest?  In particular, do they have any business dealings with vendors, individual states, or other relevant organizations?

AQD, in the course of awarding this contract, indicated no conflicts of interest.

 

 

Program evaluation


How will the program be evaluated to determine if the money was effectively utilized?

  1. Quality of data.  One approach would be to randomly select some precincts in each of the participating states and to verify the accuracy of the data with phone and mail follow-ups.

This evaluation is primarily focused on the completeness of the data and how well states were able to perform with respect to their data collection efforts. Data quality is important and information about quality will likely surface, as states will be expected to consider this as they attempt to generate complete sets of data.

 

  1. Completeness of data.  Have the states provided all of the information that they have committed to provide?

The completeness of the states’ data is a part of the evaluation plan. Please see page 1, 4, and 5 of the evaluation plan.

  1. Speed.  How long did it take for the states to collect and process the data?

  This will be addressed through various aspects of the evaluation design (e.g., achievements and challenges). Please see page 2, 4, and 5 of the evaluation plan.

  1. Follow-up.  While the focus of the project is data collection, one would hope that individual states would follow up if they observed anomalies.   For example, if an abnormally large number of undervotes were registered in a particular precinct, will the state investigate to determine if those undervotes might have been caused by a technical failure of the voting machines, a poorly designed ballot, or something else?  If not, what is the value in obtaining this information?

These issues are beyond the scope of this evaluation; however, it is possible that such issues will surface in discussions about the achievements and challenges of data collection. Please see page 2, 4, 5, and 6 of the evaluation plan

Technology failures


Will states track voting machine failures, both in terms of numbers and times that the machines were unavailable?  Will states do the same for poll books and other technologies related to voter registration databases?  If not, how will we be able to determine if the information that is collected has been impacted by technological failures?

 

These issues are beyond the scope of this grant program evaluation.

 

Providing a uniform method of data collection

It would be very useful if all of the data that is collected could be presented in a uniform fashion to facilitate analysis and evaluation.  This has been recognized by some of the proposals that discuss the use of XML (Extensible Markup Language).  XML is a general purpose markup language that allows people to create tailored versions for their specific needs.

However, there already is a widely recognized markup language for elections, namely the Election Markup Language (EML).  EML was created by an international task group operating under OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards).  This task group included election officials, representatives of vendors, and academics.  I've been told that at least some vendors, and perhaps all of them, would like to have a common language.  Using a common language would facilitate analysis by election officials and academics, as well as concerned citizens.

In addition to ease of use and interoperability, using EML would save states the cost of developing yet another markup language.  This money could be better put to other uses.

 

EAC is aware of the XML/EML formats available to states. Information regarding the states’ chosen formats will occur as part of the discussion around data collection methods. Please see page 4 of the evaluation plan.

 

 

 

Comparisons

 

One way in which the effectiveness of the funding will be analyzed is by comparing states which received funding with comparable ones that did not.

  1. How will the comparable states be selected?  Can we state specifically what criteria will be used?

This is addressed in the evaluation plan. Please see page 1.

  1. Who will make the selection of comparable states to study?

As the grant program evaluator, ICF will select the states for comparison. Please see page 6 and 7 of the evaluation plan.

  1. Will anyone be looking at those states that submitted grant applications but were rejected?

One or more of those states might fall into the comparison group if they meet the comparison criteria chosen by the evaluator.

  1. Is there some way of determining if distributing smaller sums of money to a larger number of states might have had more impact?  Might standardized tools provided by the EAC have helped?

      A funds analysis is included in the evaluation plan. Please see page 2 and 4.

 

 

Once the analysis of the data is complete, what is the next step? Will the EAC compile best practices or guidelines?

 The EAC will issue a report to Congress by June 30, 2009. The report will include recommendations and best practices.

Does the EAC or Congress plan to propose legislation based on the results to make the State’s data collection processes uniform?

 The EAC does not propose legislation. However, the EAC will closely consider the findings of this grant program as it contemplates recommendations and suggestions for data collection.

 

Is there a specific approach to data collection that is preferred by the EAC?

 At the present, there is not. However, the EAC will closely consider the findings of this grant program as it contemplates recommendations and suggestions for future election data collection.

What are the consequences for test States that stray from the recommended course of action?

 This is a grant program in which one of the goals is to learn which of the various approaches being "tested" work and which do not. There are no consequences. The EAC will offer recommendations based upon the grant program findings.

In reviewing the timeline, it seems unreasonable that the states would be able to implement such ambitious goals (in some cases, overhauling the elections management system, or, in Minnesota’s case, 11 different sub-projects) in time for the November 2008 election. Is this a concern? Has work already begun on these projects? According to the timeline, initial contact with grantees is to be completed by September 19, 2008.  Perhaps I am missing this in the documents and if so please disregard.  However, the timing is still a concern if the states must conduct an overhaul of their elections management system.

All of the states that applied for the grant program and were eventually awarded a grant were aware of the time constraints and limitations. The EAC will use what the states proposed in their applications and monitor their successes or challenges based on their indicated timelines. The nature of this pilot program is to learn what works and what does not work. Thus, if a state’s timelines turn out to be too ambitious, the results of the evaluation will indicate this.

 

Providing public access to the information

 

Will the EAC make all of the information gathered in the studies accessible to the public?

The information gathered will appear in the grant program report to be submitted to Congress by June 30, 2009. This report will also appear on the EAC website. However, information that requires confidentiality (e.g., interview data) will be summarized.

Is there a commitment to provide all of the information on the web in a uniform format that is amenable to quantitative study and analysis? 

The dataset will be made available via the EAC website in a form that is readily accessible using standard computer software.

Once the analysis of the data is complete, what is the next step? Will the EAC compile best practices or guidelines?

 The EAC will issue a report to Congress by June 30, 2009. The report will include recommendations and best practices.

Does the EAC or Congress plan to propose legislation based on the results to make the State’s data collection processes uniform?

 The EAC does not propose legislation. However, the EAC will closely consider the findings of this grant program as it contemplates recommendations and suggestions for data collection.

 

Is there a specific approach to data collection that is preferred by the EAC?

 At the present, there is not. However, the EAC will closely consider the findings of this grant program as it contemplates recommendations and suggestions for future election data collection.

What are the consequences for test States that stray from the recommended course of action?

 This is a grant program in which one of the goals is to learn which of the various approaches being "tested" work and which do not. There are no consequences. The EAC will offer recommendations based upon the grant program findings.

In reviewing the timeline, it seems unreasonable that the states would be able to implement such ambitious goals (in some cases, overhauling the elections management system, or, in Minnesota’s case, 11 different sub-projects) in time for the November 2008 election. Is this a concern? Has work already begun on these projects? According to the timeline, initial contact with grantees is to be completed by September 19, 2008.  Perhaps I am missing this in the documents and if so please disregard.  However, the timing is still a concern if the states must conduct an overhaul of their elections management system.

All of the states that applied for the grant program and were eventually awarded a grant were aware of the time constraints and limitations. The EAC will use what the states proposed in their applications and monitor their successes or challenges based on their indicated timelines. The nature of this pilot program is to learn what works and what does not work. Thus, if a state’s timelines turn out to be too ambitious, the results of the evaluation will indicate this.

mleek 10/01/2008 04:33 PM
  mleek 10/01/2008 04:30 PM
  mleek 10/01/2008 04:36 PM
  mleek 10/01/2008 04:29 PM