United States Elections Project

Election Administration

Election administration is the mechanics of how elections are run, ranging from preparations for the election, to the methods by which people cast their ballots, to how winners are declared. Americans were introduced to election administration during the Florida recount of the 2000 presidential election and much has been done in the intervening years to ensure that every eligible voter can vote and that every vote will be counted accurately.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission: Election Day Survey

The United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the 2002 Help America Vote Act to oversee implementation of federal programs to improve American election administration. In the course of conducting its duties, the EAC as fielded biennial surveys of American election administration, known as the Election Day Survey. The Election Day Survey has been conducted in 2004, 2006, and 2008. Prof. McDonald has served as a consultant for the 2004 and 2008 surveys.

The Voter Registrars' Association of Virginia's: Virginia Election Administration Survey

Download the full report.
Download the survey instrument, available in Excel (macros are used to process responses) and Pdf formats.

American citizens most often express their wishes for the direction of their government by voting. As they cast their ballot, many people give little thought to the organization that ensures that their voting experience is as convenient, efficient and reliable as possible. To understand how Virginia’s elections are run the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia in consultation with George Mason University Professor Michael McDonald and PhD student Matthew Thornburg conducted a survey of the Commonwealth’s local general registrars and electoral board members on issues such as workload, human resources, administrative resources, training and conducting elections.

The responses reveal that one size does not fit all as the needs and challenges of election administration differ between the Commonwealth’s populous urban areas and sparsely populated smaller jurisdictions. The survey offers a sobering assessment of pressing needs facing all election administrators in terms of basic support such as adequate staff and office space to an ad hoc framework for providing training, compensation and job definitions.

Pre-Registration Programs

In 2008, Prof. McDonald was awarded a Pew Charitible Trusts Make Voting Work Grant to explore the efficacy of pre-registration programs that permit persons as young as 15 years old to register so that they are in the system and can immediately begin voting when they reach 18. Results from this research project will be released in mid-2009.