Earlier this month, the EAC released two videos from experts in the field about how to visualize elections data and how visualizing these data can be used in policy and budget discussions. And last week the Pew Charitable Trusts released its most recent iteration of the Elections Performance Index (EPI) with data from the 2014 elections, using 17 indicators to examine how states administer elections.
What do these videos and the EPI have in common?
Both highlight or use data from the EAC’s very own Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) – for example more than half of the EPI’s indicators use data from the EAVS. This survey is the only effort to gather in-depth election administration data from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And of course it is hardworking state and local election officials who supply these data to the EAC, responding to this massive survey every two years.
The EAVS, which has been administered every federal general election cycle since 2004, has more than 1.5 million data points and collects information related (but not limited) to:
Voter registration, including the total number of registered voters; how many voters used Election Day registration; how many used online voter registration; where registration applications come from and how many are accepted and how many are rejected.
Military and overseas voters, including the total number of ballots transmitted, returned, counted, and rejected, and the reasons for rejection.
General election administration data, including the number of provisional ballots submitted, counted, rejected, and the reasons for rejection; the number of poll workers used; voter turnout and how voters cast their ballots – by mail, during early voting, or on Election Day.
The videos and the EPI highlight the importance of these data, as they allow all concerned stakeholders – election officials, legislators, policymakers responsible for budget decisions, advocacy groups, and voters – to better understand how elections are run. Over time, the data gain power as it becomes more possible to track and understand trends.
So what’s next for the EAVS?
With the 2016 election fast approaching, preparations for the next survey are well underway. As always, we are looking to improve the process of administering the survey for this election cycle and beyond in order to get the most complete and accurate data possible.
One way we are doing that is working with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) and the Council of State Governments (CSG) to examine potential improvements to Section B of the EAVS, which focuses on military and overseas voters. The working group, comprised of local and state election officials from around the country, has already met several times and early deliberations have led to improvements in the wording and understanding of various questions in this part of the survey. The group will continue to meet and will issue a report soon after the 2016 election.
In the coming months and into 2017 we will continue to provide updates on the survey, including a video demonstrating how to use EAVS data, so check back soon!