Democracy SoS ProjectEnormous problems with our voting process have been exposed in recent presidential elections. From long lines to butterfly ballots, voter purging to voting equipment failures, decisions election officials make impact the way our democracy functions, yet these decisions are usually made outside the public eye. The Democracy SoS (Secretary of State) Project aims to shine a spotlight on the role of election officials and their decisions. Through research, candidate surveys and public awareness campaigns, we seek to hold election officials accountable for poor decisions and promote best practices for ensuring fair elections.
- Research: In 2008, FairVote surveyed over 400 local election officials in 10 swing states. We issued a series of five reports detailing election preparedness and uniformity. State reports cover Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia. The national report includes counties with a population of over 500,000 in six additional states.
- Voter Guides: Voters are inundated with information about presidential and gubernatorial candidates, but are often ill informed about offices like Secretary of State. We will publish candidate biographies focusing on their positions on a range of election reform issues and campaign promises related to elections.
- Candidate Surveys: Voters should know where Secretary of State candidates stand before they take office. Each candidate will be asked to complete a survey covering a range of issues, including voter education, election planning and election integrity. Download sample candidate survey (PDF).
- Coalition Partners: FairVote works with a range of local, state and national partners on the Democracy SoS Project. National partners include: Common Cause, Advancement Project and Demos.
Issues in the 2008 Election
- Machine & Voting Booth Allocation: Long lines have been a persistent problem for voters, particularly at precincts with high-density populations and inadequate voting machines. Each state should issue guidelines to county election officials for allocating machines and booths to make Election Day more efficient. We will publish county-by-county machine and voting booth allocation procedures before Election Day to inform the public and encourage officials to prepare for the anticipated high turnout this November.
- Ballot Design: Everyone remembers the infamous “butterfly ballots” that caused voters problems in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. We will collect and publish county-by-county ballot designs or ballot design guidelines so voters know what the ballot will look like before they walk into their polling place.
- College Polling Locations: College students often have a difficult time voting because they have to travel a far distance to their polling location. We will publish state-by-state information about which campuses have polling place locations and which do not (but should).
- Provisional Ballot Rules: Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) to ensure every vote was counted, by allowing voters to cast provisional ballots if their name does not appear on the voter rolls or if they vote in the wrong precinct. However, HAVA leaves counting provisional ballots up to the discretion states. In working toward the goal of national uniformity in provisional ballot counting, we will publish state guidelines for counting provisional ballots before Election Day.