Improving the Election Day Survey

R. Michael Alvarez
Thad E. Hall

The collection of detailed election administration data from local and state jurisdictions across the United States has proven difficult. The problem is partly due to the decentralized nature of election administration in the United States but is exacerbated by the lack of a centralized reporting of election information. Following calls made for better reporting of election administration data in recent years from many groups, including the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission mounted an ambitious effort in 2004-2005 to collect detailed and consistent election administration data in the Election Day Survey. This effort was comprehensive and ambitious, but the less than perfect result illustrates many problems associated with collecting meaningful data regarding election administration.

In this report, we briefly discuss some of the general problems seen when we have attempted to use the Election Day Survey data in our research. We then provide twelve recommendations for improvement as a conclusion to this report:

  1. Define the terms and concepts to promote uniformity across jurisdictions.
  2. Refine and clarify the survey instrument.
  3. Seek additional important information.
  4. Reduce the cost and complexity of the survey instrument.
  5. Improve the technology of reporting.
  6. Insure interoperability across datasets.
  7. Automate data collection where possible.
  8. Improve compliance.
  9. Improve data distribution.
  10. Provide data at precinct level.
  11. Methodological development of tools for fixing and analyzing future datasets.
  12. Build collaborations.

Below we discuss some of the problems in the 2004 Election Day Survey and these recommendations in more detail.

Date Published: 
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