Election Reform and Local Election Officials

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Eric A. Fischer
Nova Science Publishers, 2008 - Political Science - 87 pages
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Local election officials (LEOs) are critical to the administration of federal elections and the implementation of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA,P.L. 107-252). Two surveys of LEOs were performed, in 2004 and 2006, by Texas A&M University; the surveys were sponsored and coordinated by the authors. Although care needs to be taken in interpreting the results, they may have implications for several policy issues, such as how election officials are chosen and trained, the best ways to ensure that voting systems and election procedures are sufficiently effective, secure, and voter-friendly, and whether adjustments should be made to HAVA requirements. Major results include the following: The demographic characteristics of LEOs differ from those of other government officials. Almost three-quarters are women, and 5% are minorities. Most do not have a college degree, and most were elected. Some results suggest areas of potential improvement such as in training and participation in professional associations. LEOs believed that the federal government has too great an influence on the acquisition of voting systems, and that local elected officials have too little. Their concerns increased from 2004 to 2006 about the influence of the media, political parties, advocacy groups, and vendors. LEOs were highly satisfied with whatever voting system they used but were less supportive of other kinds. However, their satisfaction declined from 2004 to 2006 for all systems except lever machines. They also rated their primary voting systems as very accurate, secure, reliable, and voter- and pollworker-friendly, no matter what system they used. However, the most common incident reported by respondents in the 2006 election was malfunction of a direct recording (DRE) or optical scan (OS) electronic voting system. The incidence of long lines at polling places was highest in jurisdictions using DREs. Most DRE users did not believe that voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPAT) should be required, but nonusers believed they should be. However, the percentage of DRE users who supported VVPAT increased in 2006, and most VVPAT users were satisfied with them. On average, LEOs mildly supported requiring photo identification for all voters, even though they strongly believed that it will negatively affect turnout and did not believe that voter fraud is a problem in their jurisdictions. LEOs believed that HAVA is making moderate improvements in the electoral process, but the level of support declined from 2004 to 2006. They reported that HAVA has increased the accessibility of voting but has made elections more complicated and has increased their cost. LEOs spent much more time preparing for the election in 2006 than in 2004. They also believed that the increased complexity of elections is hindering recruitment of pollworkers. Most found the activities of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) that HAVA created only moderately beneficial to them. They were neutral on average about the impacts of the requirement for a statewide voter-registration database.

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Contents

Voting Systems
11
Election Administration Issues
49
Possible Caveats
63
Copyright

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