CSG’s Efforts Drive Research on Military and Overseas Voting

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, or FVAP, recently released a research note with in-depth analysis on election data collected from the states using a data standard crafted in conjunction with The Council of State Governments’ Overseas Voting Initiative working group. CSG and FVAP originally entered into a cooperative agreement, the Overseas Voting Initiative, or OVI, in 2013 that led to the current iteration of the agreement running through 2022. The initiative targeted data standardization as a primary focus to assist states in better reporting of military and overseas voters’ ballot transmissions.

FVAP’s research note, titled “Data Standardization and the Impact of Ballot Transmission Timing and Mode on UOCAVA Voting,” included some key findings:

  • More than 2/3 of ballot requests were received at least 45 days before the election.
  • The earlier the voter received their ballot, the more likely they were to return them and the less likely it was that they were rejected for inaccuracy or lateness.
  • Voters who received their ballots by mail were slightly more likely to return them versus voters who received them electronically.

The findings of this report show the importance of each intentionally designed research question involved in better understanding the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, or UOCAVA, voting process. FVAP will use this research to leverage further implementation of the EAVS Section B, or ESB, Data Standard in jurisdictions that have high volumes of UOCAVA voters. The ESB Data Standard is used to collect data from states and jurisdictions on military and overseas ballot transmissions This effort will relieve election officials of unnecessary reporting of data and allow them to focus their energy on high-level questions that will provide the greatest quality data.

FVAP Director David Beirne believes the results of this research are an important indicator of where FVAP should focus its efforts moving forward.

“FVAP will capitalize on the momentum created by the ESB Data Standard analysis and will continue to look for more implementation across jurisdictions with substantial populations of UOCAVA voters,” said Beirne. “As we seek to best serve military and overseas voters, having data points on which to base our next steps is pivotal.  FVAP is grateful to CSG for its work in creating the ESB and collecting this data. We are proud to continue this partnership with the mission of making sure every military and overseas voter has a say in our democracy.”

In 2015, OVI and FVAP staff, along with the working group members comprised of federal, state and local election officials, and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, or EAC, analyzed the Election Administration and Voting Survey, or EAVS. The goal was to enhance the current data collection process with the states to receive the best possible data regarding voters covered under UOCAVA. The working group addressed concerns expressed from state and local election officials after having completed the survey and sought to eliminate redundancy and clarify terms and questions.

The Working Group unveiled their findings in a report released in 2016, “Overseas Voting: Improving Military and Overseas Election Data Collection.” The report included the formation of the ESB Data Standard. The data collected from this effort drove FVAP’s extensive analysis found in their recent report.

“The CSG OVI team is passionate about our work on behalf of military and overseas voters,” said Taylor Lansdale, OVI Program Manager at CSG. “We’re honored to have played a part in FVAP’s research. We pride ourselves on facilitating an open exchange of information between state and federal officials. That cuts to heart of CSG’s mission”.

With better understanding of how UOCAVA voters are being served, CSG, FVAP and others can make recommendations of how to overcome challenges faced by both the voters and the election officials who serve them.

The ESB data collection efforts will continue throughout the course of the OVI project with hopes of adding states and jurisdictions to those that are already contributing. The OVI staff and working group will strive to perfect the data standard to its most efficient form for both reporting and analyzing UOCAVA voter data.