Good data is the basis of good policymaking. In the elections field, a lack of data has often left policy makers and election officials without the tools necessary to assess successes and failures in the field. When data is available, it has usually been limited. With numerous changes to elections since 2002 – and a growing focus on the administration rather than only the outcome of elections – data collection efforts have been steadily increasing.
Data for Democracy – Improving Elections through Metrics and Measurement, a compendium of research that grew out of a Pew Center on the States and JEHT Foundation-sponsored conference, begins to look at how data is collected in the field. It highlights states that do a robust job of collecting and reporting data, examines challenges faced in data collection in the field and assesses the diversity of data and data collection mechanisms among local governments.
Among the data collection efforts highlighted in the publication:
- An effort by Maryland to assess voting patterns through the use of electronic poll-book data.
- An information reporting system in Maricopa County, Ariz. enabling a review of voting-machine performance, supply and distribution problems and poll worker effectiveness.
- A look at how data and transparency could have averted the “double bubble” problems in Los Angeles County’s 2008 presidential preference primary.
- The use of geographic information system (GIS) data to maximize the efficiency of polling-place locations in Forsyth County, Georgia.
The publication includes a dozen essays by national experts in voter registration, election technology, election administration and election reform, laying out an ambitious agenda for the future efforts in the field.