[Screenshot image via EAC]
Yesterday, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission released the 2018 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS), providing comprehensive national data on the most recent federal general election. Here’s the release:
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) today released findings from the 2018 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS), the most comprehensive source of state- and local jurisdiction-level data about election administration in the United States…
“For the last 15 years, the EAVS has played a vital role in helping election officials, policy makers and other election stakeholders identify trends, anticipate and respond to voter needs, and invest resources to improve election administration and the voter experience,” said EAC Chairwoman Christy McCormick. “This year, the EAC was pleased to make several notable improvements to improve the survey’s data quality and completeness and make the survey more accessible and useful to the election community.”
The EAC has taken multiple steps since 2016 to strengthen the EAVS. For example, EAVS Section F questions on voting equipment makes and models were redesigned, resulting in substantially improved data quality. The Statutory Overview was re-named the Policy Survey and given a new format to provide better context for understanding the EAVS data and make it easier to interpret the results and create comparisons across states. The EAC also introduced new questions within the Policy Survey relevant to cybersecurity, including on the functionality of statewide voter registration databases, online voter registration, election failsafe mechanisms, and post-election auditing.
“While election administration across the nation is largely decentralized, this report allows us to better understand election frameworks and operations in each state and most localities,” said Dr. Nichelle Williams, EAC Director of Research, who leads the EAVS. “It also depicts election administration trends over time, such as the increased usage of electronic poll books and increased rates of early in-person voting.”
The EAC contracted with Fors Marsh Group [NOTE: I am Director of Election Research at FMG – DMCj] to conduct the survey. EAVS Section B, which concerned voting by military and overseas citizens, was administered in partnership with the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP).
Some notable findings from the 2018 EAVS include:
- More than 120 million Americans, or 52 percent of the estimated Citizen Voting Age Population, voted in the 2018 Midterm Elections.
- The nationwide turnout rate was 15.5 percentage points higher than in the 2014 Midterm Election, with some states reporting turnout levels that approached those of a typical Presidential Election.
- More than 211 million persons were reported as registered and eligible to vote in the 2018 Midterm Elections, an increase of 11 percent over the 2014 Midterm Elections.
- Nearly 80 million voter registration applications were received between the 2016 and 2018 Federal Elections.
- Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) remained the most utilized method for voter registration and accounted for 45 percent of registrations, an increase of 33 percent over 2014.
- Online voter registration is allowed in 40 states and territories, and accounted for 16 percent of registrations in 2018, a six-point increase over 2014. This represented a slight decrease from 2016.
- Nearly half of states have some kind of policy allowing for same day voter registration and more than 800,000 same day registrations were processed during the 2018 Midterm Elections
By-Mail and In-Person Early Voting
- Voting in-person on Election Day remained the most-used mode of voting. More than half of voters cast their ballots in person on Election Day.
- However, by-mail voting was used by a quarter of the electorate in 2018.
- Nearly one-fifth voted at in-person early voting sites, a rate that more than doubled since the 2014 elections. In six states, more than half of ballots were cast at in-person early voting sites.
Military and Overseas Voting
- More than 350,000 Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) voters participated in the 2018 Midterm Elections.
- The number of ballots transmitted to UOCAVA voters increased by more than 50 percent over the 2014 Midterm Election.
- Ballot transmission increasingly occurs electronically rather than through postal mail, while postal mail was the most common mode of ballot return.
- Overall, five percent of ballots returned by UOCAVA voters were rejected, most commonly because they were received after state deadlines.
Polling Places and Poll Workers
- Almost one-third of states have vote centers or allow voters to cast ballots at any polling place in their jurisdiction.
- Recruiting adequate numbers of election workers continued to be a challenge for election officials. Nearly 70 percent of responding jurisdictions reporting that it was “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to obtain a sufficient number of election workers.
- Nationwide, jurisdictions reported deploying 334,422 pieces of equipment to cast and tabulate votes in the 2018 Midterm Elections.
- The most commonly-used equipment types are optical or digital scanners and Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs).
- More than 90 percent of election jurisdictions use voting machines that produce some form of paper backup.
- The usage of e-poll books among jurisdictions increased by nearly 50 percent between the 2014 and 2018 Midterm Elections. More than a quarter of all jurisdictions used electronic poll books in 2018.
Post-Election Auditing and Recounts
- All states have a mechanism for conducting recounts to ensure that ballots were counted correctly.
- Most states (78.2 percent) require some kind of post-election audit.
- About half of states conduct election audits of voting machines every election.
- Only twelve states do not require any type of election audit.
The EAC conducts the EAVS to meet its Help America Vote Act of 2002 mandate to serve as a national clearinghouse and resource for the compilation of information with respect to the administration of federal elections. Additionally, the EAVS fulfills EAC data collection requirements contained in both the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and the UOCAVA.
Arrival of the EAVS data is always a big day for the election community; expect to see lots of stories as folks dig into this huge trove of election data. Kudos to the EAC for a successful release … electiongeeks, start your data engines – and stay tuned!