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Changing the Way Colorado Votes Peggy Cuciti & Allan Wallis Buechner Institute for Governance University of Colorado Denver.

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Presentation on theme: "Changing the Way Colorado Votes Peggy Cuciti & Allan Wallis Buechner Institute for Governance University of Colorado Denver."— Presentation transcript:

1 Changing the Way Colorado Votes Peggy Cuciti & Allan Wallis Buechner Institute for Governance University of Colorado Denver

2 How do we administer elections now? Multi-modal. In person at precinct polling places or vote centers; In person at early vote centers; By mail, including PMIV. Decentralized.

3 Election Reforms Considered 1.Attitudes toward adopting to All-Mail Elections (VBM) 2.Projected costs/savings of adopting VBM elections Also considered: 3.Moving the Registration Deadline Closer to Election Day Research Approach Solicit informed opinions regarding impacts through survey of key stakeholders: county clerks; election activists; party chairs. We achieved a good response rate from clerks (58/64) and from election activists (32/35), but a poor response rate from party chairs (41/128). In depth accounting for 2010 general election costs and detailed projects of cost changes resulting from VBM.

4 Survey Responses Green indicates support or an impact generally viewed as desirable and red and orange indicates opposition or undesirable impact.

5 Question: What are the perceived impacts from changing to VBM Elections?

6 VBM: Impacts on Electoral Participation: Turnout All groups think VBM will positively affect overall turnout. Most clerks think it positively affects both inactive and active voters. A majority of party chairs think it will increase turnout among inactive, but not active voters. Election activists assess impacts differently; they think it will increase turnout among active voters, but not traditionally inactive voters.

7 What Empirical Studies Say VBM appears to result in a small increase in voter turnout, but voters employing this mode are essentially identical to the existing electorate. VBM does not seem to promote greater diversity (e.g., increased participation by blacks and Hispanics) in the electorate. What the Colorado Primaries Tell Us Counties that conducted VBM primaries experienced about 10% high turnout than other counties, but the former also have about 9% more voters registered to received permanent mail ballots.

8 VBM: Having Your Vote Counted A majority of all groups believe the number of ballots with errors that prevent tabulation will not change, or will decrease. Clerks are least likely to anticipate an increase (28%) compared to about 40% of others. A large majority of party chairs and activists believe there will be an increase in the number of ballots arriving too late to be counted. 47% of clerks also expect an increase in uncountable late ballots.

9 VBM: Impact on the Cost of Conducting Elections All groups anticipate that if elections were conducted by mail, the cost of administration would decrease. Among groups, clerks are much more likely to say costs would significantly decrease (66%).

10 VBM: Effect on Election Integrity Potential for Fraud 2/3 of clerks see no impact; and almost 30% expect fraud would decrease. For other groups (especially party chairs) many more anticipate VBM would increase fraud. Likelihood of Voter Coercion 79% of clerks see no impact. For other groups, more than 60% expect VBM would increase the incidence of voter coercion. Ability to Verify Voters’ Identity Only about 5% of clerks think ability to verify identity will decrease. But approximately 40% of the other groups think verification will be harder.

11 VBM: Effect on Election Integrity Likelihood of Errors in Election Administration Almost 2/3 of clerks expect that VBM will results in reduced errors. Other groups are more likely to see an increase in errors with VBM. Reliability of Vote Tabulation 73% of clerks see no impact and remainder think reliability would increase. For other groups, distribution is more bi-modal. Among activists, twice as many expect a decrease as increase. Among party chairs, more even distribution-17% expect reliability to go ↓ and 22% to ↑.

12 VBM: Impact on Democratic Values Voters’ Confidence in the Election Process A majority of clerks and election activists expect no impact and among clerks only 10% see any decrease. Party chairs express greater concern, with 48% expecting a decrease in voter confidence. Sense of Community Clerks are split but more see an increase than decrease. Others (especially activists) are concerned that VBM will reduce sense of community. Levels of Citizen Oversight 2/3 of clerks expect no change. Among others, a majority anticipate decreased opportunity for citizen oversight.

13 VBM: Other Impacts Generally Agreed Upon and Viewed as Positive by all Groups Increases voters’ ability to complete complex ballots; Increases access for disabled voters; Increases the timeliness of reporting election results.

14 What Empirical Studies Say VOTER CONFIDENCE. Voters in general express a lower level of confidence that their votes will be counted as intended when they vote by mail than when they vote in a polling place. However, confidence increases when those receiving a ballot by mail return it themselves to a polling place or other designated drop off location. FRAUD. Critics of VBM cite increased opportunities for fraud as a major concern, but most evidence of fraud that they provide is anecdotal.

15 What Empirical Studies Say VOTER PREFERENCE. A survey of Colorado voters conducted by Mann and Sokhey in the summer of 2010 found that only 15% of voters support only having a choice of mail balloting, while 77% wanted to retain a choice among modes of voting (e.g., early voting, polling places, service centers, etc.). A more recent statewide poll found somewhat stronger, but still minority support for adopting all- VBM elections. However, support increases if respondents are asked their preference knowing that all-VBM could save taxpayers dollars.

16 Question1: Should Colorado Shift to All-Mail Elections in Even Years?

17 Support for All-Mail Ballot Very Strong Among Clerks. 92% of clerks support, mostly “strongly” Among other groups, not so much. 44% of party chairs support, 56% oppose. 40% of election activists support, 60% oppose 15% of voters support “only mail ballots.” 77% want to retain choice of voting method (Mann & Sokhey, Colorado Voter Opinion Poll).

18 In all-mail elections, should service centers be required? Strong support among all groups 85% of clerks 76% of party chairs 97% of election activists. Most of those who support service centers in all-mail general elections also believe the requirement should extend to other all-mail elections.

19 If all-mail elections, should ballots be sent to inactive voters? Respondent Groups Disagree: 61% of clerks say NO But 51% of party chairs and 97% of election activists say YES Most who say “yes” would extend the requirement to odd-year all-mail elections.

20 Question: What are the Costs/Savings Resulting from Changing to VBM Elections?

21 There are few studies on election costs, but here are some key findings Costs have risen rapidly over the last decade. Equipment and labor are major cost drives. Although HAVA grants helped offset equipment acquisition costs, these savings are outweighed by higher maintenance costs over the lifetime of the equipment. Paper with optical scan offer some savings relative to DREs Savings possible with all-mail; % savings vary.

22 2008 Colorado Election Costs A study by Russ Ragsdale of the 2008 general election costs--excluded regular personnel and equipment—found: Average Cost per registered voter of $8.49 but with big variation among counties ( $2.92 to $39.01). Most expensive components of the election – Temporary staff and overtime 33.8% – Printing ballots 30% Technical support 12.5% Possible savings of 45% if all-mail election

23 Buechner Institute Cost Study Survey of 4 pairs of counties matched by size of electorate and geographic region, but differing on mode of voting for the 2010 primary. Four additional unpaired urban counties. The 12 sample counties contain over two- thirds of the state’s population.

24 Major Cost Components Considered Personnel: regular staff* + overtime; temporary staff, election judges, other. Printing: ballots; voter notifications; poll books; training materials; other. Mailing: ballots; voter notifications; other. Facilities: voting and drop off sites; equipment storage and transportation; etc. Miscellaneous: technical support; IT support; vehicle rental & mileage; supplies, etc. Equipment: capital costs* * These cost components were not included in the Ragsdale study

25 Two Study Approaches 8 Paired County Comparison of Primary Costs 12 County Comparison of Actual General Election Costs with Estimated Costs if All Mail Election.

26 Average Cost Per Primary- Eligible Registered Voter 4 All-Mail Counties $6.95 4 Traditional Counties $8.45 SAVINGS $1.50

27 . 2010 General Election Costs: Actual and Estimated if VBM

28 The average cost per registered voter in the 2010 general election was $6.70, including equipment costs and permanent labor. If those two cost factors are excluded, then the average cost is $4.03, less than half the cost of the 2008 presidential election, which had the largest turnout in the state’s history. If the 2010 general election had been conducted through all-mail balloting, it would likely have cost $1.05 less per registered voter; a savings of almost 19%.. 2010 General Election Costs: Actual and Estimated if VBM

29 Cost Changes in VBM by Cost Categories

30 Election Judges and Temporary Labor Biggest contributor to savings: $0.84 On average, 66% reduction. All counties report savings. Main reason: Don’t need to staff polling places on Election Day.

31 Other Changes Resulting from VBM Printing costs increased marginally on average, +5 cents per registered voter; increasing in some, decreasing in others. Mailing costs increased by 10 cents per registered voter.

32 Other Changes Resulting from VBM Miscellaneous costs including equipment maintenance, transport and storage reduced by 39% (-17 cents per registered voter). Capital Equipment Costs assumed to remain constant, but over time there should be savings.

33 Population Size Matters Costs are much higher per registered voter in small counties than in the medium or large sized counties.

34 Regardless of size, all counties would save as a result of changing to all-mail balloting. Savings would be greatest for big counties-27%, then medium counties-22%, and least for small counties --7%. All Counties Would Save Regardless of Size

35 If the 2010 general election had been conducted statewide through all-mailing balloting, including the use of service centers before and on Election Day and the sample counties are assumed to be representative of all similar sized counties, the projected savings would have totaled almost $4 million. Projected Total Statewide Savings from VBM Elections


37 Question2: Should Colorado Shift Its Registration Deadline Closer to Election Day?

38 Changing the Registration Deadline Individuals must first establish their eligibility by registering to vote; Current Law in Colorado closes the registration process 29 days prior to the election. 9 states + D.C. allow SDR – registration up to and including Election Day. There are many options for changing the registration deadline.

39 Option 1: Maintain the Current Law – Registration Deadline 29 Days prior to Election All of the clerks and most of the party chairs find current law with respect to registration deadlines acceptable. The great majority of election activists would like to see a change. Opinions hold fairly constant even if respondents assume a shift to all mail elections.

40 Option 2: Change the deadline to one week prior to election Election activists are much happier with this option, with 73% finding it acceptable; However, a majority of clerks and party chairs oppose this change to the registration deadline. Coupling this reform with all- mail election has a relatively small impact on views.

41 Other Options Moving the deadline even closer to Election Day increases activist support somewhat, with the highest level of support (90%) for: – Option 3, the Friday before, or – Option 4, Election Day itself, if limited to the C&R office. Support from clerks and party chairs are even lower for these options than for one week prior.

42 Why are there different views? Election activists consistently see positive impacts arising and think potential negative impacts are unlikely to occur. Clerks and party chairs think positive outcomes are unlikely to be realized and that there is a real risk of negative impacts occurring.

43 Would changing the registration deadline increase voter turnout? Election activists support changing the deadline because they believe it will increase turnout, especially among those who move frequently and/or who historically have low rates of participation in the electoral process. Neither clerks nor party chairs share this view. They think changing the registration deadline might help movers, but a large majority of both groups do not expect an increase in overall turnout, or turnout by historically underrepresented groups.

44 Would changing the deadline affect election administration? Increase the Workload of election administrators A majority of clerks and party chairs say the change would increase workload; election activists disagree. Result in Long Lines at Polling Places Election activists don’t believe that changing the voter registration deadline to the Friday before election would result in long lines at polling places. A majority of clerks believe long lines would result. Party chairs are more split in their views but more disagree that this would be an impact than agree.

45 Would changing the deadline affect election administration? Make it More Difficult to Plan for the election. Almost all the clerks believe changing the registration deadline would make it difficult to estimate the # of ballots or staff needed to conduct the election. Party chairs share this concern. Election activists disagree that this would be an impact of the change. Make it Difficult to Compile and publish poll books. The reactions to this statement were similar to the one above. Make it Difficult to Create Voter Lists for Special District Elections The reactions to this statement were similar.

46 Would changing the deadline affect election administration? Provisional Ballots Reducing the number of provisional ballots is a potential benefit. Most clerks and election activists anticipate changing the deadline would be beneficial. Party chairs are divided but more disagree with the prediction than agree. Emergency Registrations Almost all the activists believe there would be a drop in emergency registrations. Most of the clerks also believe this. Party chairs are divided in their view, although more agree than disagree.

47 Would changing the deadline affect election integrity? Fraudulent Registrations Almost 2/3 of clerks and of party chairs believe that changing the registration deadline would result in an increase in fraudulent registrations. Election activists do not believe that changing the law would have this impact.

48 What Empirical Studies Say TURNOUT. Adoption of SDR appears to increase voter turnout, especially among younger and more mobile voters. INCONVENIENCE TO VOTERS. Research suggests that delays caused by SDR are reduced over time as voting technology (e.g., scanners) is modernized. PARTISAN BALANCE. SDR does not appear to favor one political party over another.

49 ADMINISTRATIVE BURDEN. The introduction of SDR can produce an administrative burden on a state’s election officials, but this burden seems to decline over time as the demands generated by SDR become more familiar. FRAUD. There is no clear evidence that SDR increases the incidence of voter fraud.

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