Election administration is about how the electoral register is compiled, how votes are cast and then how they are counted. For example, is voter registration automatic? Do citizens have to visit a polling station in order to vote, or can vote via the post or internet?
It is important because it can influence how many people vote, how easy it is to conduct fraud, whether we have confidence in the integrity of elections and sometimes even who wins elections.
Many countries have experimented with election administration in recent years. In some countries the focus has been on reducing perceived voter fraud and making it more difficult to vote. Many states in the USA have therefore introduced voter ID laws, the UK government wishes to do the same. In contrast, Estonia introduced internet voting, making it much easier to vote.
Election administration can affect turnout
The choice of election administration can affect turnout. Research shows how
- the introduction of voter ID requirements in Britain reduced turnout in pilots.
- changes made to election administration in the UK, 1997-2007, boosted turnout.
- introducing individual voter registration in Britain reduced registration rates amongst young people (and led to other problems…)
- automatic voter registration could boost voter registration rates
Inclusive voting practices
Given that electoral administration can affect turnout, Holly Ann Garnett and I coin the phrase inclusive voting practices in our recent book. An inclusive voting practice is one which redresses turnout or other inequalities in the electoral process.
The politics of election administration
I have studied why election administration might change in a democracy. A number of factors are important. These might include technological change and demographic change. But often the interests of politicians is important, as I have demonstrated in recent articles in the journals British Politics and Contemporary Politics
I will also report comparative findings in my monograph called Elite Statecraft and Election Administration, which was published by Palgrave in 2012.
Poll workers and electoral administration
Alistair Clark and I have undertaken a series of poll worker surveys in the UK. This has collected original data on the training that poll workers receive, the problems that they face and how well elections are run in Britain. Our first survey findings were reported here.
From Research to Policy
With Bite the Ballot, I have worked with Parliamentarians to improve electoral administration in the UK. We published 25 recommendations for improving voter registration in our Report on Getting the Missing Millions Back on the Electoral Register. This received critically acclaim and some parts have been taken forward as government and opposition policy. As a result, I was shortlisted for a finalist for the 2018 ESRC Impact Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Public Policy. I wrote an article in British Politics about our story.