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Elections Program Research: Winter 2019 Roundup

By Sarah Cole / 2019 March 18th

Democracy Fund’s Elections Program research is off to a strong start in 2019, with the release of the first brief out of the 2018 Democracy Fund-Reed College Survey of Local Election Officials (LEOs)—which will be released in full this summer. The brief focuses on voter education and accessibility and was previewed at the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Conference and the Democracy Fund-Bipartisan Policy Center event on “The Voting Experience: 2018 and the Future.” Outlined below are key insights from the brief, in addition to key insights from the Southern Political Science Association (SPSA) Annual Conference and a grantee spotlight on the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). Stay tuned in the coming months as we gear up and plan for the 2020 Presidential Election!

New Research at the Southern Political Science Association (SPSA):

In January, the Southern Political Science Association (SPSA) met for its annual conference in Austin, Texas. Outlined below are the highlights shared by Democracy Fund partners, including:

  • University of San Diego’s Evan Crawford, Reed College’s Paul Gronke, and Portland State University’s Paul Manson: It’s difficult to interpret survey results from local election officials because of variations in jurisdiction size and work responsibilities.
  • University of Texas at Austin’s Nadine Suzanne Gibson: While there were no detrimental effects to voter experience or confidence when using private vendor service packages, there were also no data supporting the claim that election services vendors improve the administration of elections.
  • Auburn University’s Bridgett A. King: State-level election statutes and administration requirements for poll workers have variable effects on whether African American or Hispanic/Latino American voters are more or less likely to see a poll worker that matches their race or ethnicity.
  • Mississippi State University’s Thessalia Merivaki: There was inconsistent implementation of youth pre-registration in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough Counties in Florida despite uniform rules within the state, meaning that where a pre-registrant lived influenced the odds of whether their applications would be invalidated.
  • Fairfield University’s Gayle Alberda: In-person early voting had a negative effect on voter turnout in municipal elections across Ohio.

Preview of 2018 LEO Survey Results at NASS and BPC:

In early February, Democracy Fund’s Elections Program participated in two events. First, we sponsored a breakfast at the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Conference that brought secretaries of state and members of the advocacy community together. Second, we partnered with the Bipartisan Policy Center on “The Voting Experience: 2018 and the Future.” At each event, we presented a sneak peek of results from the 2018 Democracy Fund-Reed College Survey of Local Election Officials (LEOs). Some of our preliminary findings include:

  • LEOs surveyed believe that it is easier today for voters to register and vote, and it is easier for LEOs to administer registration and voting processes;
  • Ninety percent of LEOs enjoy educating voters, but only 35 percent say that they have the time and resources to do so, along with their responsibilities to administer the election; and
  • LEOs felt prepared for the 2018 election, and were confident that their states would secure systems from outside interference and successfully count votes as intended.

Note: The full report can be viewed on www.electionline.org under Research and Reports.

Research Grantee Spotlight: The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE):

Tuft University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) found that involvement in the post-Parkland gun violence prevention movement contributed to an increase in youth voter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections. Young people under 21 years old who reported being actively involved in the movement were 15 percent more likely to have been contacted by a campaign both before October and in the last six weeks before the election, and young people who reported that they were actively involved in the movement or agreed with it were 21 percentage points more likely to self-report that they voted in the election.

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