Electoral Integrity in the 2018 American Elections (PEI-US-2018)

From Electoral Integrity Project

This report provides an assessment of the performance of all 50 states + DC in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, compared with the 2016 contest. It applies the expert survey methods used since 2012 by the Electoral Integrity Project to measure and compare the quality of contests around the world.

The team of researchers is composed by Professor Pippa Norris, (Director of EIP Harvard/Sydney), Holly Ann Garnett (Royal Military College, Canada), and Max Grömping (Heidelberg University).

PROBLEMS OF ELECTORAL INTEGRITY

Electoral administration in the US has become increasingly partisan and litigious ever since Bush v. Gore in Florida in the 2000 Presidential elections (Hason 2012). Questions have arisen concerning the security, integrity, inclusiveness, convenience, and accuracy of the registration and balloting processes in America.

These issues were documented in the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Electoral Administration, established by President Obama (Bauer and Ginsberg 2014). The Commission reported that contemporary standards of electoral administration were highly uneven across the country.  It recommended a series of practical reforms to the election process.

The Elections Performance Indexconducted in 2014 by the Pew Center and in 2016 by MIT’s Election Data + Science Lab also suggest that states varies in how they performed against a range of quality indicators in the presidential and the mid-term contests.
 
In  2016,  a range of problems arose during the campaign and on polling day, some trivial, others more serious.  Throughout the 2016 presidential election campaign, Donald Trump warned about the risks of widespread fraud, claiming afterwards that millions of votes were cast illegally. The security services reported how the Democratic National Committee computer server was hacked and materials distributed through Wikileaks. In addition, social media were awash with trolls disseminating fake news, misinformation and disinformation (Jamieson 2019). The intelligence community and the Mueller Report subsequently concluded that the culprits were Russian. This led to widespread concern prior to polling day in the 2018 midterm elections that contests remained vulnerable to these security risks, as well as the challenges posed by fake news, voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering and voter fraud. In 2018 Congress allocated additional funds and the Department of Homeland Security cooperated closely with election officials in many states to tighten the security of official registration and voting records.

Moreover the Brennan Center documented how states also introduced many changes to the complex legal framework governing the mosaic of American election procedures. Some states facilitated easier and more convenient processes for citizens, such as ‘automatic’ registration, but others sought to tighten voting security through stricter voting requirements. As argued elsewhere (Norris, Cameron and Wynter 2019), electoral laws in America are seen through a strongly partisan lens, but there are potential bipartisan reforms which can strengthen both inclusion and security, these are not necessarily trade-offs, thereby strengthening public confidence in the process.

On polling day in November 2018, how did state elections perform? Were there improvements in the quality of the voter experience when casting ballots? What evidence allows us to monitor changes over time in each state?

For more details, please visit Electoral Integrity Project’s website at https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/peius2018 .

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