Report Explores Urban vs. Rural Election Administration

Report Explores Urban vs. Rural Election Administration
FlagHolly E Clark

In May, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission released a report comparing election administration in urban and rural jurisdictions. The survey uncovered more similarities than differences, in part because many small, urban jurisdictions have more in common with rural offices than with very large metropolitan ones. The size of the registered voter population seemed to influence administration more than did the degree of urbanization.

The report was based on a national survey of local election administrators that focused on voter-outreach efforts and office personnel—topics identified by a working group of election officials and researchers as likely to vary based on a jurisdiction’s urbanization.

A clear majority of election offices spent $5,000 or less on voter outreach for federal elections. In the 2012 general election, 76 percent of rural and 71 percent of urban districts spent less than $1,000 on voter outreach. Just 6 percent of urban and less than 1 percent of rural jurisdictions spent $20,000 or more on voter outreach. 

When costs were broken down by the size of the registered voter population, rather than by urbanization, the differences were more obvious. Eighty-eight percent of small localities (5,000 or fewer registrants) spent less than $1,000 compared with 52 percent of large localities (more than 20,000 registrants). In 2012, none of the small jurisdictions spent more than $20,000 on voter outreach, but 13 percent of large ones did.

Urban and rural offices, however, did differ in the types of outreach they conducted. Most rural jurisdictions relied on paid print advertising to reach voters, while the majority of urban jurisdictions used websites.

Follow us on Twitter using #electiondata and get the latest data dispatches, research, and news by subscribing today.

The front facade of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, DC.

Agenda for America

A collection of resources to help federal, state, and local decision-makers set an achievable agenda for all Americans

Quick View

Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for emerging challenges, it makes government more effective and better able to serve the public interest. In the coming months, President Joe Biden and the 117th Congress will tackle a number of environmental, health, public safety, and fiscal and economic issues—nearly all of them complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help solve specific, systemic problems in a nonpartisan fashion, Pew has compiled a series of briefings and recommendations based on our research, technical assistance, and advocacy work across America.


States of Innovation

Data-driven state policy innovations across America

Quick View

Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for difficult challenges. When states serve their traditional role as laboratories of innovation, they increase the American people’s confidence that the government they choose—no matter the size—can be effective, responsive, and in the public interest.