The data proves it: 2020 US election was a remarkable success

Geseënde Donderdag,

A few months after every federal election, a little-known federal agency called the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) releases a trove of data it collects from all 50 states on what happened in the election. The survey offers one of the clearest pictures of the nuts and bolts of the election: things like how people voted and registered, the demographics of poll workers, and provisional and mail-in ballot rejection rates. It’s a report card of sorts, and for the people who study how elections are run, it’s a bible of useful data.

The survey for the 2020 verkiesing came out on Monday, and it provides unambiguous evidence of what a remarkable success the presidential election was, against all odds. Nearly every state recorded an increase in voter turnout. Algehele, meer as 67% of America’s citizen voting age population voted in the election – a record high. Despite fears that the surge in mail-in balloting would lead to an increase in ballot rejections, the overall rejection rate remained the same.

“It is basically an indicator of the success of the election,” said Barry Burden, the director of the elections research center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Election administrators managed to pull it off and support a record number of voters.”

Now Burden and other experts are poring over the data to see which trends might stick in future elections and which might have been a quirk of the pandemic and other unusual circumstances of voting in 2020.

The survey shows, byvoorbeeld, that Americans dramatically shifted the way they voted. Only about a third of voters cast their ballots on election day, choosing instead to cast their vote either by mail (43.1%) or early in person (30.6%). That’s a sharp change from previous years, when the majority of voters cast their ballots on election day.

“I don’t know if that’s going to be the way future elections are defined,” Burden said. “Some surveys of voters have indicated that quite a few of them who voted by mail want to go back to voting in person. But lots who voted by mail for the first time became fond of it, became aware of it, frankly.”

“We’re likely to have this multi-modal system in place for years to come," hy het bygevoeg.

An election system in which there are significant numbers of people voting three different ways (persoonlik, vroeg, and by mail) has significant political and administrative consequences. Election administrators will have to figure out how to run essentially three different elections for voters.

It also makes running campaigns more complicated, Burden noted. Traditionally, campaigns run a heavy persuasion effort right until voting begins, and then invest in get-out-the-vote efforts. But more voting by mail means that people are casting their ballots earlier.

“Now they need to be running both of those efforts kind of simultaneously from about mid-September, when the first absentee ballots go out, 90 days in advance to military and domestic absentees. That’s just complex, and I think some research has showed it’s more expensive to run campaigns in this way.”

Charles Stewart, an election administration expert at MIT, said he plans to dig deeper into ballot rejection rates. Among rejected ballots, about a third went uncounted because of signature matching problems. Rondom 12% were rejected because the voter missed the deadline to return the ballot.

“There was great concern about new people not following instructions and having a lot of rejections," hy het gesê. But despite the fact that there were double the number of absentee ballots this year, “the percentage of absentee ballots rejected was about what it was in the past”.

“Although, the way I think about these things is that since we doubled the number of absentee ballots, that means there was double the number of people whose votes didn’t get counted because of something wrong. But nonetheless, from this other perspective, it wasn’t all that bad," hy het bygevoeg.

Selfs so, Stewart and Burden both want to investigate why a handful of states had rejection rates that appeared to far exceed the national rejection rate of 0.8%. Those states include Arkansas (6.4%), New Mexico (5.0%), New York (3.6%) and Mississippi (2.3%). Burden cautioned against drawing quick conclusions from the data:“I do have a concern that the data are still a little hinky. Not all of the states reported what share of absentee ballots were rejected, and a couple of them reported data that was not complete," hy het gesê.

Stewart also said he also wanted to better understand why Washington, Oregon and Colorado – states that long have had universal vote by mail – continued to have rejection rates around the national average, despite their expertise and experience in the area.

“1% is a pretty high rejection rate,” het hy opgemerk.

Algehele, Burden said, the survey should be used as hard evidence to help build trust in American elections.

“I think what the average American hears about in the press is partisan disagreements over whether there was fraud or whether there’s going to be another audit in some state," hy het gesê. “One way to rebuild the confidence of some voters is to remind them of how wonderful the election was.”

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