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What Happens to Election Returns and Records after the Contest Is Over? Melissa Marschall Associate Professor, Political Science Rice University.

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Presentation on theme: "What Happens to Election Returns and Records after the Contest Is Over? Melissa Marschall Associate Professor, Political Science Rice University."— Presentation transcript:

1 What Happens to Election Returns and Records after the Contest Is Over? Melissa Marschall Associate Professor, Political Science Rice University

2 Overview 1. Focus on local governments 1. & elections—Why? 1. What is the ‘stuff’ of elections? Election Candidacy, campaign, & campaign finance Voter registration 2. Record retention, management & dissemination Who decides what to keep, how long to keep it and how to archive? Access and “archiveness” of election stuff? 3. Local Elections in America Project (LEAP)

3 Why Focus on Local Governments and Elections? 1. Nearly all elections in America are for Local rather than state or federal offices. 99.9% of all Governments in the US are local More than ½ million public officials hold local elective offices 1. Election administration is done by Local governments 1

4 Number of Local Governments by Type, General Purpose (All)39,04438,96738,97838,85138,55238,18437,061 County3,0333,0343,0433,0413,0443,0433,052 Municipal19,49219,42919,27919,07618,51717,99716,807 Town/Township16,51916,50416,65616,73416,99117,14417,202 Special Purpose (All)50,43248,55845,97742,92939,66653,00179,695 School District13,05113,50614,42214,85115,78134,67867,355 Special District37,38135,05231,55528,07823,88518,32312,340 Total Local Governments89,47687,52584,95581,78078,21891,185116,756 Source: U.S. Census Bureau (2002, 2007). 1

5 Number of local govts per county

6 Distribution of Local Officials by Govt Type & Office, 1992 All GovtsCountyCityTown/ Twnshp School Dist Special Dist Total local elected officials Officials per government Pct all local elected officials Pct in legislatures Pct in other bodies Pct in exec/admin/judicial positions 493, , , , , , n/a Source: U.S. Census Bureau (1995). 1

7 Election Administration by Local Governments Administration of elections more decentralized in the US than any other country. Counties & municipalities mainly responsible for the conduct of elections. Oversee voter registration, design ballots, purchase voting machines, train polling officials. Secretary of state is technically responsible for elections in most states Little or no budget for elections Little power over election administration Help America Vote Act or HAVA (2002) —1 st federal law to govern the administration of elections. 1

8 A Sample of the “Stuff” of Elections Record TitleRecord Description Ballots Official ballot showing candidates and measures, including ballots that are unused, voted, absentee, defective, spoiled, replacement, provisional or mailed and returned by the post office as undeliverable. Ballot voting records Absentee ballot requests and applications, cancellation of absentee ballot requests, notices of denial of cancellation requests, lists of corrected ballots sent, untimely and rejected ballots, jacket envelopes, carrier envelopes, early voting and absentee rosters, statements of challenge to early and absentee voters, notices of non-acceptance of early voting and absentee ballots, orders for the appointment of signature verification committees, late absentee ballot applications, disabled voter applications and affidavits, applications to vote restricted ballot, restricted ballot rosters. Election contracts Contracts, leases, or agreements for election services or the use of voting machines, including written approvals from the Secretary of State, if such approval is required. Election officer records Orders of appointment of election judges, including memoranda of emergency appointments, if applicable. List of election judges or other officers, statements of compensation due to election officers. Precinct boundary records Notices of changes to precinct boundaries, maps of precinct boundary changes. Precinct election records Signature rosters, combination forms, provisional ballot lists, provisional ballot affidavit envelopes, summaries of provisional ballots cast, certificates of appointment of watchers, precinct returns, ballot registers/tally lists, voted, spoiled, defective, unused, undistributed, and specimen ballots, record of incorrect ballots destroyed, redistributed ballot receipts, ballot distribution record, unofficial tabulation of ballot results, official tabulation of precinct results, voting machine inspection and testing records, notices of voting machine inspections, voting machine opening and closing certificates, paper ballot write-in affidavits, voting machine printouts, ballot box seal record, ballot box certificates and seals, ballot box receipts, certificates of successful and records of unsuccessful tests of automatic tabulating equipment, testing ballots, and requests for and retractions of, if applicable, extension of security period on voting machines. Campaign finance reports and filings Campaign contribution and expenditure statements (including annual reports of unexpended contributions), designation of campaign treasurers (including notices of termination). 2

9 Record TitleRecord Description Candidacy applications and certifications Applications and any accompanying petitions for place on ballot, including any rejection notices and withdrawal of petition signature requests, certifications of candidates, declarations of intent to run as an independent candidate, declarations of write-in candidates, withdrawal of candidacy requests Challenges to registration records Records relating to challenges by the voter registration or another registered voter to the registration of a voter and similar records relating to the challenge by a voter to cancellation of registration by the voter registrar, notices of challenge, requests for and notices of hearing, affidavits of argument or evidence, statements of challenge, and copies of petitions for review in cases appealed to a district courts, written determinations of challenges. Voter registration applications and associated documents Voter registration application and records that Election Code requires be maintained in association with application files: authorizations to vote by affidavit, requests for replacement certificates, notices of change in registration information, returned renewal certificates, abstracts of death, probate, mental incompetency, felony conviction, and disqualification of an election contest, lists of persons disqualified from jury service because of lack of citizenship, and written notices to voter of investigation of registration status, written response from voters, proofs of citizenship provided by voters, and memoranda of oral responses. Notices of change of residence of voters from other voter registrars, notices of applications for limited ballot from early voting clerks in other counties, notices of voter registration cancellation and reinstatement, sworn statements of death. Voter registration certificates Duplicate initial registration certificates, corrected registration certificates issued by voter registrar, lists of returned certificates, original registration record sheets or cards. Voter registration lists and related documentation Master voter registration list of all registered voters in a county, change lists or similar documentation providing an audit trail, used to correct or update master voter registration list, supplemental, corrected, or revised original list of registered voters provided to authorities for use in countywide elections, registration omission lists. Preclearance records All preclearance submission documentation including, but not limited to, change in election precincts, polling places, and voting procedures. 2

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11 Record Retention & Management Most states have Record Retention Schedules State statutes also provide guidelines Discretion at local level Considerable variation across states 3

12 What gets retained & for how long by Local governments? Election Certificates/ Returns Precinct election returns Canvass/ Tally sheets/ Tabulations Official (Sample) Ballots California4 years6 monthsPermanent ColoradoPermanent6 months Permanent FloridaPermanent1 yearPermanentUnknown Maine2 years 2 months Massachusetts1 year?Unknown3 years/30 days*Unknown Mississippi5 years2 years Unknown New Jersey5 yearsUnknown5 yearsPermanent North CarolinaPermanent 2 monthsPermanent TexasPermanent22 months Unknown 3

13 How to decide what gets retained and for how long? 1. Administrative value Helps the office perform essential functions now or in the future. Custodian should ask, “At what point in time will this record cease to be of potential administrative value? Is this administrative value found in any other records which will be retained?” 2. Legal value It documents a legal right or obligation of a citizen, of the office or of the municipality. Official should ask, “At what point in time will this record, or records series, cease to document any enforceable legal rights? Are these rights documented by any other records which will be retained?” 3. Fiscal Value It uniquely documents or verifies spending or receipt of public monies. Official should ask, “At what point in time will this record, or records series, no longer be needed to document the transfer or payment or encumbrance or other action pertaining to the sending or receipt of public monies? Is that information documented in another record which may be more appropriate to keep?” 4. Historical Value The application of this value is fundamentally a search in the records series for possible cultural values to posterity. Does the records series provide valuable information on persons, events, or subjects? Does the series provide valuable information on the key operations of a significant municipal office? 3

14 Examples of Election Ephemera Archives UCLA Online Campaign Literature Archive—A Century of Los Angeles Elections Get out the Vote—Campaigning for the US Presidency Exhibition Finding aid for the presidential campaign ephemera (USC Archival Collection =0107 =0107 This small collection consists primarily of fliers, buttons, posters, clippings, and other ephemeral materials from numerous presidential campaigns. 3

15 Archiving & Dissemination of Election Returns Most comprehensive & centralized: Louisiana State of the art, but uneven by county: Florida Majority states completely decentralized with no state standards of reporting 3

16 Local Elections in America Project (LEAP) NSF Cyberinfrastructure CF21 Venture Fund, SES, and Rice’s K2I ERIT program (Marschall & Shah, Co-PIs) Developing a path-breaking solution to the problem of collecting, digitizing and disseminating data on local elections A DATABASE that: Collects past, current and future data on Local elections Provides connectivity to other data using fips codes Includes a web-based user interface Allows searching, reporting, GIS capabilities, online forms 4

17 Evolved Sampling Frame and Strategy Statewide Websites (Secretary of State) County-level Election Websites City/Municipal Websites – Target “original” sample LA (all elections) CA (municipal elections) FL OH NH SD 4

18 Coverage (40 States to Date) Original Sample 877 out of 1,241 (71%) All cities ≥ 25,000 population Total cities 5,400 (minimum) out of 19,317 For a few states, we have all places in the state. For some counties, we have all places in the county. County, State, School Board and Federal Elections data for many places Significant variation in time-frame (1920s to present) 4

19 Conclusions & Implications Elections are complex, frequent, expensive Each one produces MANY records and documents Record retention, management & dissemination have improved (with help from HAVA) but still have a long way to go. Comparability across places & time (within and across states) Access and usability of data (format, documentation) Implications of LEAP: Raises questions about authenticity Provides a model of how to archive records more efficiently, effectively Significantly improve access and use by researchers, educators, & practitioners


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