Friday, February 15, 2013

Election administration in the US and the challenges ahead

Image: PEW Website
Today it is no secret to anyone that the US election administrators have a daunting challenge ahead of them. Since the butterfly ballot scandal caught worldwide attention and surfaced the obsolescence of its voting systems, elections in the US have been surrounded by controversy.

Fortunately, the demand for better electoral processes is finding interesting responses from both, Government related organisms (Electoral Assistance Commission) and the non-government sector. The body of knowledge being developed by these organizations will certainly disseminate better practices and improve how elections are run across all states.

The PEW Charitable Trust is one of these organizations promoting clean, transparent and efficient elections. A recent research project by this ONG, labeled The First Comprehensive Assessment of Election Administration Across the Nation, pinpoints the obstacles in the road to better run elections.

One of the most interesting ideas emanating from that initiative is the Elections Performance Index (EPI). The EPI was developed with the intent to provide election officials and policymakers with a tool to help them benchmark their performance, as well as assess which policies are working effectively.

Using 17 criteria the EPI analyzed the 2008 and 2010 elections across 50 states. Factors such as wait time, lost votes, availability of online voting information, voter turnout, accuracy of technology, among others, allowed the to assess the state of the US electoral system, and indicate a path to improve election administration.

The results obtained in the study, and the obvious next steps emanating from this initiative, come at very important moment. With the next election two years away, and the re-elected president willing to endorse the necessary changes, the US is in an important position to face and conquer the challenges ahead.