Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Monday, October 22
Pew's Data Collection Proposal
Among the most serious problems with the administration of American elections is the lack of reliable information. On everything from the number of people registered to the number of votes counted, the information coming from state and local election officials leaves much to be desired. In the Election Assistance Commission's 2004 survey, many states simply did not answer all the questions asked. Even where answers were filled in, many of the responses were inaccurate.

As Thad Hall and I explained in this comment, one way of dealing with this is to provide states with federal funds in exchange for better data on election administration. Better data is not only necessary for researchers to understand our election system. It's also essential to diagnose trouble spots before they emerge into full blown problems. Accordingly, accurate and complete data is a prerequisite to meaningful election reform.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has recently taken a step in the right direction, with a proposed pilot program that's being floated in Congress. Here's how the pilot program would work: A total of $10 million in competitive grants would be provided to five states, for them to improve data collection during the 2008 election season. To compete for a grant, states would have to come up with a plan to improve compliance with EAC data requests. States awarded grants would each get $2 million by mid-2008. Afterwards, the EAC would have to submit a report to Congress making recommendations on how to improve data collection in the future. The long-term goal is to improve and expand the collection of data across the country.

There's no doubt that better data is vital to both research and reform in the area of election administration, and Pew's proposal would move us closer to this goal. Congress should therefore embrace Pew's proposal.

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