Date of Award

Summer 7-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS)

First Advisor

Dr. Ronghua Shan

Second Advisor

Dr. William Figg

Third Advisor

Nikki Charlson, J.D.

Abstract

Research on provisional ballots is nearly nonexistent and research on military and overseas civilian absentee ballots is limited. While the percentages of those voters are small, they are still substantial enough to swing close elections, so ensuring that every eligible voter has his or her vote counted is essential and research is needed in order to identify ways to improve processes for these voters.

By the 2012 Presidential General election, the Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) had implemented Online Voter Registration (OLVR), Electronic (or paperless) Motor Voter (EMV), and Online Absentee Request (OAR). Maryland also did a redesign of the Online Ballot Delivery system for UOCAVA voters (OBD), including a ballot marking wizard as an option. These systems were implemented with the intention of reducing provisional ballots and reducing the late ballots for UOCAVA voters. Because these types of systems are so new to the U.S. election administrations, no research on their effectiveness has yet been published.

This research project briefly describes each of the new technologies and analyzes registration and turnout statistics in order to determine if the new systems achieved the Maryland SBE’s goals. The results show that the voter registration systems effectively reach all demographics, although unaffiliated voters show a greater likelihood of using OLVR. While provisional turnout was not reduced, voters who made use of the new registration systems were less likely to vote provisionally. The results also show that OBD reduces ballot transit time and allows ballots sent later than by mail to still be returned on time.

More research is needed to fully evaluate the effectiveness of the new systems because Maryland did not have a large enough population of UOCAVA voters for a strong analysis and because discrepancies in the ways other states reported UOCAVA data on the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) statistical report prevent a solid cross-state analysis. Also, more research on provisional voting is needed to determine the full impact of the new registration methods. However, initially the systems appeared to achieve their stated goals by improving the likelihood that provisional ballots and UOCAVA absentee ballots would be accepted.

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