Analysis

Virginia Web Tools Let Users Access Interactive Election Data

The Virginia Department of Elections has released a series of interactive data visualizations that depict variations in election administration across the state’s 133 election jurisdictions. Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortes describes the project as “part of the [Elections] Board’s broader goal of making decisions related to election administration more transparent and evidence-based.”

The interactive tools, developed in collaboration with The Pew Charitable Trusts, are based on information provided by local registrars to the state’s central voter registration and election management database on voter turnout rates, registration and denied registration rates, and processing times for absentee ballots and voter roll update requests.

Findings include:

  • In every year since 2012, the plurality of voter registration applications were submitted through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), but that may be changing. In the first two months of 2016, 40 percent of registrations came via the state’s online registration system, which was introduced in 2013, while just 33 percent came from the DMV.
  • Most absentee ballot requests are processed within three days of submission. However, in 2015, five jurisdictions sent out less than 80 percent of their domestic absentee ballots within the three-day period.
  • Across the state, voter registration applications spike in October of presidential election years. In October 2012, Virginia residents submitted 429,024 registrations, compared with 116,889 in October 2013.

James Alcorn, chairman of the State Board of Elections, thinks this project will be an important resource for election officials and the public. “All too often, discussions about election administration turn on anecdotes because objective evidence wasn’t easily available. This tool turns the hard data that the Department of Elections collects into accessible, objective information that can be used to improve elections across the commonwealth,” he says.

Initially, the board hopes to use the data to identify localities with effective practices that can be shared with other jurisdictions across the state, and state officials expect that the tool will continue to expand over time, adding new metrics and updated data points.

Heather Creek is a research officer for election initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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