Toward a voter-centered approach to elections
Author: Amber F. McReynolds - April 25, 2018 - Updated: April 25, 2018
I have the honor of serving as the director of elections for the City and County of Denver. As a city, Denver is committed to ensuring our citizens have an outstanding voting experience. Our elections team is extraordinarily committed to serving voters and facilitating this fundamental democratic process. All elections are essential — from presidential elections to local school board elections — and it is our responsibility to support voters throughout the entire process.
As a dynamic, highly complex, and decentralized ecosystem, the election administration field involves commitment by federal, state, and local election officials but also technologists, stakeholders, advocacy groups, and above all — voters. Let me say that again. Voters are the key and making their experience meaningful, accessible, and secure is our ultimate responsibility. We must continue to improve our service delivery to voters, respond to their needs, and facilitate a fair and accessible process. I believe this process must be free from partisan politics and must be centered around doing what’s right for all voters, regardless of political persuasion.
Thus, to solve critical issues, including ensuring that our election systems are secure, I would offer the following as a call to action:
To election administrators — Support your voters, connect with them, and listen to them. You can do this specifically by collecting and analyzing customer service-related data. The winning formula for us has been: streamline the voting experience + advocate for voter-centric changes = improve internal operations, gain efficiency and improve service. Election administration is a local phenomenon and it is local election officials who deliver a direct service to voters. Federal and state officials provide support to the local election offices with rules and regulations that provide consistent practice, training, voter registration systems, and other secondary support.
To elected officials — Listen to your local election administrators, respect voters, and give voters a chance. Once your election is over, you represent all voters, not just those who cast a vote for you or donated to your campaign. Regardless of your party affiliation, you should advocate for fair, accessible, secure, transparent, and efficient election processes. Barriers and burdens in the election process such as restrictive voter registration deadlines, overly prescriptive residency requirements, and lack of options to vote outside of a specific time are not productive for voters and not at all efficient in terms of the procurement and funding of voting systems, and thus are woefully unfair to taxpayers. Colorado modernized its voting model in 2013 to address many of these issues and now is a leading state in terms of policy innovation, election administration, and civic engagement. At that time, there was opposition by some but our coalition was able to advocate for and pass the most comprehensive election reform package in Colorado’s history. Now, there is documented evidence of the positive impact this reform has had to improve the voting experience, increase civic engagement, reduce costs, and above all — more effectively serve voters. Now, other states look to Colorado as a model.
To voters — Tell us what you want and set high expectations. You deserve a voting process that is efficient, accessible, secure, and reliable. One that respects you and your right to vote and to participate. In Denver, we listen to you by analyzing the reasons you call our office and then we build systems that provide you the information you need; as an example, we created Ballot TRACE as a result of your calls. Further, we continue to put your needs at the center of our decision-making process: we analyze data and metrics, we utilize creative design thinking, and we continue to look for opportunities to improve.
Election administration starts at the local level but is extremely complex and requires coordination with state and federal governments, especially with regards to security. Ensuring that our elections are secure requires commitment, collaboration, coordination, and communication across all levels of government. And it should be free from partisan politics and it is my sincere hope that a solution-orientated approach is the ultimate path forward.
As local election administrators, we are on the front lines interacting with our voters and responding to their needs. As a voter, you deserve excellence. Expect it, demand it, and advocate for it!