2008 Election Data Collection Grant Program Report
In December 2007, Congress appropriated $10 million so that the EAC could establish and fund the Election Data Collection Grant Program contained in the FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act (Public Law 110-161, Title V). Pursuant to the appropriation, the EAC awarded competitive grants of $2 million each to five states: Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The pur-pose of the grants was to implement programs to improve the collection of data related to the 2008 Federal general election, with a specific emphasis on improving their ability to report election data at the precinct-level.
This report is an evaluation of the grant program. It highlights the extent to which the grantees were able to collect 2008 election data at the precinct-level, develop a series of administrative procedures and best practices in election data collection that can be replicated by other States, and enhance their capacity to collect accurate and complete election data in the future.
Report and Data
- 2008 Election Data Collection Grant Program Evaluation Report NOTE: Ohio uses the term "absentee voting" to describe both in-person and mail-in voting that occurs before Election Day (see Table 2A, Page 28). Wisconsin's reporting of core data is 100%. The grantee average for reporting of core data should be 94% (see Table 5, page 31).
Select findings from this report include:
All five grantees were able to submit election data at the precinct level. The grantees’ level of compliance with the EAC’s 2008 Election Administration and Voting Survey, in terms of percent of core data provided, was higher than non-grantees.
All five grantees advanced the efficiency and effectiveness of election data management within their states by way of enhancements to their data collection systems.
Innovative training of local election officials on the enhanced systems was essential to the grantees’ program success.
Pursuant to the language contained in the Act, the EAC must include in the report that it submits to Congress on the impact of the Election Data Collection Grant Program, "such recommendations as the Commission considers appropriate to improve the collection of data relating to regularly sched-uled general elections for Federal office in all States, including recommendations for changes in Federal law or regulations and the Commission’s estimate for the amount of funding necessary to carry out such changes."
To meet this requirement the EAC makes the following recommendations:
Recommendation: Further study should be done to develop a detailed financial analysis of the program costs incurred by each of the five grantee States that participated in the 2008 Election Data Collection Grant program.
As of June 1, 2009, the five grantees had expended $3.1 million of the $10 million allocated for the grant program. While EAC is not able to provide a final analysis of what it cost the grantee States to undertake precinct-level data collection and reporting, a more detailed analysis will be generated later this year once the grantees’ final financial status reports have been submitted to EAC. EAC will be able to present an up-to-date analysis of the costs incurred by States to gather and report pre-cinct-level data for the questions currently contained in the EAC 2008 Election Administration and Voting Survey.
However, financial analysis of funds utilized by the five grantees who undertook precinct-level data collection will not necessarily be indicative of costs to other jurisdictions throughout the nation. There are wide variations in state and local jurisdiction processes and voting technology that would need to be accounted for in analyzing resources required for precinct-level data collection. A thor-ough analysis of resources needed to collect precinct level data on a national level would require an in-depth study that would require considerable resources and expertise.
Recommendation: Provide technical and financial support to those States facing technology challenges with collecting election data.
Many jurisdictions will not have the financial and technical support necessary to conduct statewide precinct-level data collection if Congress makes such a request in the future. Some jurisdictions lack the fundamental components of an electronic data collection and reporting system (e.g. computers and information technology (IT) technicians) and would benefit from additional grant funding.
Recommendation: The federally-mandated data submission deadlines will need to be adjusted if precinct-level data are required from all States.
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act, as amended, requires States to submit a report to the EAC no later than 90 days after a Federal election. Current FEC regulations require data from the States about the National Voter Registration Act be reported to Congress not later than June 30 following that Federal election year. Currently, data for Congressional mandated reports are col-lected at the State level. If these data are to be collected from each State at the precinct level, the federally-required deadlines for submitting these data should be adjusted to allow adequate time for collecting and submitting this information to the EAC.
Recommendation: In order to enhance the use of technology States should continue to improve and modernize their electronic reporting and list maintenance systems.
States are encouraged to use their statewide databases as tools for generating election data to assist them with responding to EAC’s Election Administration and Voting Survey and other requests for data. Electronic databases help to ease the burden of responding to such requests for State and local officials alike. States are also encouraged to work with their local officials to develop an efficient process for tracking and submitting data electronically as states and localities prepare for future EAC Election Administration and Voting Survey data submissions.
Recommendation: States are encouraged to use technology to ease the workload on their elec-tion offices, as they deem appropriate.
The data from the NVRA portion of the 2008 Election Administration and Voting Survey (the only current data available at the time this report was printed) shows substantially increased registrations, as well as an increase in duplicate and invalid registration applications. Given the scarce resources for election administration, States are encouraged to explore what technologies and processes might help reduce the administrative burden, and increase the accuracy and efficiency with which election administration information is collected and maintained.
Recommendation: States should explore supporting a coordinated data collection effort that enables local jurisdictions to provide election data at the precinct level to their State election offices.
As States anticipate and prepare for collecting election data after each Federal election response rates to questions contained in the EAC Election Administration and Voting Survey are likely to continue to improve. A well-coordinated State and local approach to gathering and compiling data could help State election offices more efficiently respond to Federal requests for precinct-level data. This ap-proach could also provide a foundation for the State to easily report data for other areas related to administering elections.
Recommendation: States should provide EAC with information on their proven best practice models of election data collection, including precinct-level data, in order to facilitate sharing with all States through EAC’s clearinghouse function. EAC should facilitate ongoing dialogue among the 2008 Election Data Collection Grant program grantees and elections officials.
Election data collection systems vary widely across the 55 States. Programs undertaken by individ-ual States and by the five States that received funding through the Congressionally-funded 2008 Election Data Collection Grant program can provide practical and proven solutions to data collection problems. Election data collection grantees and chief election officers in each State are encouraged to share with EAC the methods they have found that help them effectively and efficiently collect election data. EAC will encourage States to submit their models to the EAC Clearinghouse so that other States can use the successful practices as they improve and refine their data collection efforts. Sharing of best practices in data collection and training related to those practices would be very beneficial.
Recommendation: For the purpose of compiling comparable precinct-level election data from future EAC Election Administration and Voting surveys the EAC will continue to work to-wards a common understanding of election terms in future EAC Election Administration and Voting Surveys. The EAC will continue to work to address the variations in how election data are reported.
There is tremendous variance across the country regarding the policies and procedures that are used to collect and report election data. In the 2008 Election Administration and Voting Survey and in its instruction manual EAC offered definitions of various election terms in order to facilitate a common understanding of the data EAC sought. In the future EAC will work with its Board of Advisors and Standards Board to determine how EAC might develop definitions of election terms that will be most beneficial to States’ reporting survey data and to stakeholder groups who use the survey data.