In the Washington Post’s 'Monkey Cage' blog, I coauthored a post on how effective election administration can improve voter confidence. This post was backed up by a wealth of research my academic colleagues and I have conducted on voter confidence and election administration over the years. Bottom line: from our many years of past research, we’ve found that most voters already are confident that their ballots are counted accurately – but "…that confidence can be improved or harmed by how state and local election officials manage elections".
Although our work has focused on traditional voting in polling places, the lessons learned from this research can be applied to the voting process for the overseas citizens, and members of the U. S. Military and their dependents who are covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). These voters can benefit when election officials follow the same steps found to boost confidence among traditional voters.
- Train election staff to serve UOCAVA voters consistently and effectively. How voters interact with frontline election staff has a profound influence on voter confidence. If staff who interact with UOCAVA voters understand how important their role is, then they are likely to perform their jobs better.
- Improve transparency. Election offices can do a number of things, many of which are discussed in the Council of State Government (CSG) Overseas Voting Initiative Policy Working Group’s recommendations report.
- Make sure the election website is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and mobile friendly.
- Let UOCAVA citizens register to vote online.
- Communicate clearly to voters through a variety of channels – including websites and social media – about the status of the election process (e.g., registration deadlines, ballot transmission dates, and ballot return deadlines).
Enhanced communication is critical to improving the confidence of UOCAVA voters in the electoral process. By providing additional feedback to these voters, they can feel greater confidence in the process. Currently, national survey data finds that approximately 75% of the population is confident that their ballot will be counted accurately. By comparison, only 33% of military personnel in 2014 expressed confidence that their ballot would be counted (see page 114: Active Duty Military Survey). Research suggests that election officials can improve confidence among all voters – including UOCAVA voters – by having additional customer service, transparency, and auditability in their elections.
When election offices adopt effective training and commonsense procedures, they can ensure that all voters – whether they’re heading to the polls on Nov 8, or filling out an absentee ballot – are able to be confident in the outcome, regardless of who wins the election.