Election Universe

Decentralization and the US Presidential Commission on Electoral Administration

Decentralization and the US Presidential Commission on Electoral Administration
April 22 2014, 22:21

Following President Obama’s “we have to fix that” comment on the US voting system, during his acceptance speech 2012, a Presidential Commission on Electoral Administration (PCEA) began a series  of public hearings with State and local election officials, academic experts, and organizations and associations involved with voting and/or election administration.

During the first public meeting of the US Presidential Commission on Electoral Administration (PCEA), held on June 28 in Miami, 2013, it became obvious that the concept of locally administered elections is ingrained in the DNA of the US. Most Supervisors attending the event emphasized the idea that “one size doesn´t fit every county“. Even Ken Detzner, Secretary of State of Florida, a federal institution, made clear his stance on by stating  “In a decentralized election system like we have here in Florida, supervisors of elections and county commissions must take it upon themselves to oversee elections through responsible leadership and efficient administration”. All of his remarks pointed to supervisors as the most adequate entities to run elections.

From the many pros and cons of this decentralized model, one challenge surfaced during the meeting which is of particular relevance in light of PCEA´s mission:  Standardization. Two commissioners made important remarks on this subject. When Joe Echeverria, (CEO for Deloitte) asked how supervisors defined success, after a prolonged silence, some possible answers were suggested, but no clear definition of success was given. Brian Britton, Vice President, Global Park Operations and Planning at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts asked if there were any kind of metrics for election administration. No straight answer was given.

If the PCEA is to improve election administration across the entire nation, some agreements need to be made defining what success is, and which the metrics to measure it are. Christopher Thomas, Director of Elections in the Michigan Department of State asked Supervisors to define what a long line is. Different supervisors had different ideas to define it.

Mark Andersen, Election Supervisor for Bay County, understanding the importance of using quality management systems to control and improve election administration worked to have his office certified under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2008. However, his is the only election office in the country with this certification.

Although centralization may not be the right answer for the US, the PCEA is in the right track of gathering best practices around the nation, to share them with the rest of the thousands of counties trying to improve voter experience. The challenge will be then to encourage the adoption of those best practices.

Having the PCEA submitted the final report, it is now time for authorities to act and find the means to improve election administration in the country. The next election is right around the corner. The clock is ticking.

“Image courtesy of puttsk / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.