Can States Stage Efficient Elections?
NCSL Legislative Summit: Aug. 8, 2011
Running time: 01:08:07
Debra Levine, director, Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, NY
Zachary Markovits, senior associate, Pew Center on the States
Doug Lewis, director, The Election Center
Allan Wallis, professor of public policy, University of Colorado, Denver
Elections are the backbone of democracy, and as such Americans think of them as "priceless." And yet there is a price associated with running good elections, even if it is difficult to determine. How can we know that we are getting the best elections we can for our investment?
Zachary Markovits, from the Pew Center on the States, defined "efficiency" in elections as the costs divided by the outputs. Data on these may be difficult to gather, but pointed to many excellent reports and sources. His takeaways: states can and should capture what data already exists and use it to assess election performance and to craft data-supported legislation.
Doug Lewis, from The Election Center, listed three problems faced by election administrators: persistent budget cuts, increased election costs due to federal and state laws and regulation, and voting equipment that is coming to the end of its useful lifespan. He ended with the words, "if you want elections to run well, pass fewer laws, not more."
Allan Wallis, from the University of Colorado, Denver, reported on his study, Changing the Way Colorado Votes. In it he analyzed the potential for all-mail elections and other options. He reports that the cost of running elections is driven by equipment and labor costs.