Session 1b: Election Official Concerns Now and Later

Thursday, July 28 8:40 AM-10:10 AM

Chair: Samuel Baltz, MIT Election Data and Science Lab

Paper #1: Succession Planning

Succession planning in local governments has a direct impact on organizational effectiveness and planning. Organizations need talent to be successful in the short and long-term. Whether it is a payroll clerk, a professional planner, or an election official, it seems logical that an agency or firm is more likely to accomplish its mission if employees have the skills, training, experience, and motivation necessary. Organizations in fields with many firms or whose employees largely come from clear professional tracks usually attempt to find the best and brightest among an established talent pool and make adjustments to their skills and training once hired. In fields with specialized missions, few firms, and less direct links to standard practice in professions or trades, organizations may need to be more proactive to find, train, develop, and motivate employees to accomplish their mission. While succession planning is important for all organizations, it would seem even more critical for organizations in the latter scenario, like local governments. The problem would seem pressing based on demographic trends and related professions. About 10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65 every day (AARP, 2021). Yet, three studies of local organizations demonstrate a failure to conduct succession planning regardless of their size and budget. The problem is more acute when we consider that about 10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65 every day (AARP, 2021) coupled with COVID 19. This presentation discusses what succession planning is, why we need to plan, who plans, and discusses why the majority of organizations fail to plan regardless of size or budget.

  • Suzanne Leland, UNC Charlotte

Paper #2: Who makes threats and what prompts them? The rise of hateful attacks against election officials explored through twitter data

As former President Donald Trump has falsely claimed that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election, election officials around the nation have suffered the brunt of violent and hateful attacks, to such an extreme that many have been forced to leave their jobs after receiving credible and persistent death threats. Who is threatening election officials, and what prompts those threats? We examine these questions using a corpus of the rhetoric directed at election officials over time, by systematically collecting replies to election officials’ Tweets. We use sentiment analysis to score the tone of these replies, to measure the volume and intensity of the negativity that targets election officials. We can then measure who sends negative or positive Tweets, using methods for estimating the ideology of a Twitter user to check whether harsh replies tend to come from the left or the right. Changes over time in the sentiment of these replies suggest which political events prompt more or less negative rhetoric to be directed at election officials. We supplement the everyday rhetoric in this corpus with news coverage of truly violent threats against election officials. We also compare the rhetoric directed at officials in different situations with an eye towards understanding how these threats can be reduced, for example by measuring how often a state is mentioned in Democracy Fund’s electionline, and then estimating the difference in rhetoric directed at officials in high salience states compared to low salience states.​

  • Charles Stewart III, MIT
  • Joelle Gross, MIT Election Data and Science Lab
  • Samuel Baltz, MIT Election Data and Science Lab

Paper #3: Envisioning an Elections Future: Exploring the Technology, Policy, Management and Legal Environments in Voter Registration

The New York State Board of Elections (SBOE) has ensured safe and transparent elections across the state since 1974. SBOE, as a bipartisan organization with a mission to protect the integrity of elections, regularly commits resources to protect NYS’ election processes from cybersecurity threats. As part of their charge to protect the integrity of elections, NYSBOE has consistently prioritized end-to-end security of voter registration. Through their statewide cybersecurity initiatives, NYSBOE has made a significant impact in securing NYS counties as a whole in addition to adding layers of protection to voter registration. While NYSBOE continues to lead these critical programs aimed at securing the current technical environment, they also recognize that it is important to envision a potential future technical environment, such as an enterprise approach to voter registration. Therefore, in order to build a shared understanding of the management, technology and legal environments in voter registration currently in place in NYS and across the United States, NYSBOE leaders reached out to the Center for Technology in Government (CTG UAlbany) at the University at Albany, SUNY to conduct a formal analysis of voter registration environments. Six parallel investigations were led by CTG UAlbany’s multi sector and interdisciplinary team:

1. Clarifying Voter Registration Designations and Identifying Voter Registration Components and Alternatives

2. Examining How Federal and State Laws Shape Voter Registration in NY

3. Understanding Voter Registration in Practice Across the US

4. Modeling Voter Registration Processes in NYS Counties

5. Testing the Security and Resiliency of Voter Registration Alternatives

6. Understanding the Security and Resiliency of Voter Registration in NYS Counties

This paper presents a summary of the analysis generated as well as ten high level findings critical to inform future discussions and investment decisions in voter registration in NYS.

  • Meghan E. Cook, Center for Technology in Government, University at Albany, State University of New York​
  • Kristen Zebrowski Stavisky, New York State Board of Elections
  • Todd Valentine, New York State Board of Election
  • Battulga Buyannemekh, University at Albany, State University of New York