Improving communication with voters and streamlining the administration of elections by working with election administrators and major technology companies.
This morning, the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on “Russian Interference in the 2016 Elections.” This comes in the context of recent revelations from former FBI Director James Comey, as well as multiple leaks and recent reports in The Intercept, Bloomberg, Politico, and McClatchy, alleging widespread hacking of election systems. Some of these reports have claimed, without much information to support the allegations, that “Russian hackers hit systems in 39 states.”
We’ve now had a weekend to ruminate on The President’s signing of an executive order last week, establishing a “Commission on Election Integrity.” Even with the perspective of some time, the order and the way it was approached leads to far more questions than answers. Specifically, why is this commission being formed, who will participate on it, and how will it operate? Some thoughts on the why, who, and how:
Six months after the election, there’s still discussion about the extent to which voter fraud exists and whether the White House will follow through with an investigation. In the meantime, election officials across the country have been quietly doing their jobs and are wrapping up investigations from the last election while preparing for the next. The reviews to date confirm what most election officials have been publicly stating for some time – that while the amount of actual voter fraud is not zero, it’s very close, with only an infinitesimal number of cases of potential voter fraud nationwide.
2016 saw more states than ever before use vote centers for early or Election Day voting. In addition to providing a convenient option for voters, vote centers can have the additional benefit of saving money for election officials. They often require an up-front investment in e-pollbooks to ensure that all locations have real-time access to the voter registration list and can require larger locations with different technological needs, however they can also require fewer pollworkers and result in a smoother voting experience for voters.
As we reported in September, Facebook outreach to its users contributed to a significant increase in online voter registration activity in the days preceding National Voter Registration Day on September 27. Online registration transactions – both new registrations and updates to existing registrations – appear to have increased more than seven times on average September 23rd (the day Facebook began its outreach) compared to the previous day, with some states seeing as much as a twenty-fold increase.
UPDATED WITH ADDITIONAL DATA AS OF SEPTEMBER 28, 2016
Today, September 27th, is National Voter Registration Day – a day when non-profits, campaigns, and government officials from across the political spectrum join together to encourage everyone to check and update their voter registration, and register to vote if they haven’t already. In just a few years, the organizers of National Voter Registration Day have done a great job of bringing together people who might not agree on many political issues, but are in absolute agreement about one important idea – that our democracy is stronger when more of our citizens participate.
As of today, 32 states and the District of Columbia have online voter registration, and that number is growing. The benefits are well known and well documented: online voter registration is more convenient, more efficient, and more secure than paper, and while it requires an initial modest investment, it saves states money in printing costs and in data entry, almost immediately recouping the costs. The challenge for many states, however, is that field groups have little or no incentive to use online voter registration systems – paper forms allow these groups to collect information on registrants to use for voter outreach and allow them to take credit for the new registrants they bring into the process. So how do we balance everyone’s needs?