Early thoughts on the 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS)

By Amy Cohen

On June 29, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) issued its report on the 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS). EAVS, mandated by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), compiles data on federal elections from every state, ranging from registration and turnout to voting equipment and more. There are challenges to this kind of data collection, both in terms of getting responses to every question from every state—in many states, elections are administered at the county or even town-level—and ensuring that each state reports the same data in response to the same question, ensuring an even comparison. Despite these challenges, the EAVS survey remains the only comprehensive accounting of how the states administer a given federal election and tells us a lot about what happened from the administrative side during the general election.
 
There are thousands of data points to choose from in the 2016 report, but a few really stand out:

  • States report a total of 214,109,360 total registered voters, a 10.6 percent increase from 2012. 2016 marks the first time the U.S. has reported more than 200,000,000 registered voters.  
  • Of the more than 77 million voter registration transactions (new registrations or updates to an existing registration) between 2014 and 2016, 37.3 percent were new, valid registrations. A plurality of the other transactions (39.7 percent) were in-state updates (changes of address, party, or name). 10.3 percent of the applications received were duplicate registrations or otherwise invalid.
  • 2016 saw a record number of citizens using online voter registration. 17.4 percent, or approximately 13.5 million, of voter registration transactions were online, up from 6.5 percent of voter registration transactions in 2014 and 5.3 percent of transactions in 2012.  We saw a slight decrease in voter registration transactions at motor vehicle departments during the same time period, with 32.7 percent of total registration transactions, or approximately 25.3 million voter registration transactions, down from approximately 35 percent in 2012.  
  • 41.3 percent of ballots cast in the November 2016 election were cast before Election Day. Of total turnout of more than 140 million, 17.2 percent of ballots were cast at early in-person voting locations and 23.7 percent were cast via absentee by mail. Seven states—Arizona, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, and Texas—saw more than 60 percent of their total ballots cast before Election Day. 
  • More than 70 percent of the 2,460,421 provisional ballots cast on Election Day were counted, either in full or in part (state law varies about how many races on a provisional ballot are counted based on where the ballot is cast in relation to where the ballot was supposed to be cast).

The EAC provides election administrators and others in the field with valuable information and the 2016 EAVS is certainly no exception.