State Election District Targeting Procedure
Citizens Oversight (2016-08-08) Ray Lutz
This Page: http://www.copswiki.org/Common/StateElectionDistrictTargetingProcedure
This procedure determines election district targets and evaluates past audit compliance.
In the following procedure, replace your state abbreviation where you see 'ST'. This procedure generates a data file which provides the top targets for our oversight work. Generally, by the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule), the most populous 20% of the election districts will comprise 80% of the voters. Also, it captures recent election audit reports. Other districts should only be processed if we have someone who really wants to do the work in that district.
Before we dip into the districts, we prioritize by number of registered voters in each state. States do not very well follow the 80/20 rule, it is more like 50/20 or 80/40 rule.
|| Portion of Voters
|| State List
| Top 10 (20%)
|| CALIFORNIA, TEXAS, FLORIDA, NEW YORK, PENNSYLVANIA, ILLINOIS, OHIO, MICHIGAN, NORTH CAROLINA, GEORGIA, VIRGINIA, NEW JERSEY
| Top 20 States (40%)
|| WASHINGTON, MASSACHUSETTS, MISSOURI, TENNESSEE, INDIANA, WISCONSIN, MARYLAND, MINNESOTA, ARIZONA, COLORADO, SOUTH CAROLINA, LOUISIANA
We reviewed the entire list of election districts in the nation. The top 175 of the some 8000 districts (about 2.1%) account for 50% of the voters in the nation. The following map shows the locations of the top 175 counties. We will primarily be focusing on the top 175 counties in the country rather than prioritizing on a state-by-state basis. After we get the lions share of those counties covered, we may want to extend to the tp 300 counties (60% of the vote) or the top 500 counties (70% of the vote). I daresay getting 70% coverage would be quite a success story. But let's concentrate on the first 175 counties to cover 50% of the electorate.
Map showing the top 175 counties (50% of voters) in the nation.: High-res
- Some states, like Nevada, are not in the top states list, but Clark County (Las Vegas) is a very significant county. So in addition to looking at this state-by-state, we can look at these few important counties as well.
- East Coast counties are very small. Thus although NYC falls below Los Angeles, it is broken up into multiple counties and as a whole rates much higher.
- Chicago is also very dense and Chicago City is broken out as a separate district.
- Small states like NJ will have almost all counties of interest due to their extreme density.
- WI has 3589 really small districts with an average of about 1000 voters, and none rise to the level on national level. This will take more investigation to figure out how to effectively provide oversight. These are more like "precincts" in other states.
- Alaska is one big single election district. They do not break it down by county.
- North Dakota does not register voters so they are not included. Will have to analyze using population.
Here is a snippet of the national ranking table showing the first 22 entries:
Steps to get state teams started
Within each state, we need to do the following:
1. Election Districts
Compile a list of all the election districts. These are likely just the counties. Generally, we get a spreadsheet with the following columns:
This should be available from the Secretary of State's web site. Usually, you can copy and paste into a spreadsheet and get the information but it may require some fixup.
Let's call this ST-ElectionDistricts.csv (It can be a .xls (excel spreadsheet) or .ods (Open office spreadsheet) or just .CSV (character separated values).
Most of the columns should be self-explanatory, except for:
- WikiFileName -- This is not a field you will collect from the state's SOS. It should be ST_CountyName, like CA_SanDiego. Leave out spaces.
- Contact - name of the election official, registrar of voters, county clerk, supervisor of elections, etc who is responsible for conducting elections and will be your contact for interaction.
- Title - Title of that contact.
- The rest of the contact information is generally how you will be contacting that person.
2. The current voter registration in each of the election districts.
You don't need to do this as we have already done it for all 50 states. We can provide this.
We have collected recent voter registration numbers which will be close enough for our purposes here, by sorting the same file by State and then by Registered Voters.
You should be able copy and paste the section for your state to your other file.
The following file is the registration of all counties sorted first by state then by county. Alabama has the sort of analysis to determine the top 20% targets and the top 40%.
Sort both by district name and copy the registered voters column into the FL-ElectionDistricts.csv file. Save this.
4. Determine top 20%
We are not doing it this way any more as we are focused on the top 175, 300, or 500 counties.
Sort by highest registered voters to least. Choose top 20% of the election districts. These will be our primary targets.
4.1 (Optional) create a colorful map of the counties of interest.
- Use this online tool: http://mapchart.net/usa-counties.html
- Choose the counties of interest.
- Download and then snip out just the state of interest using snipping tool.
- result should look like these for California and Florida
5. Check cumulative
We have already done this step for all states
If you are good at spreadsheets, you may want to also create a column which is the RANK, which can be generated by the =RANK(value, column) syntax. That way the rank is preserved if you sort the districts by name or some other value. Also, create a column which is the cumulative reg. voters and one which is the % of the total. We are hoping that the top 20% will be about 80% of the vote. By way of example, in CA, the top 3 counties comprise about 50% of the vote, the top 20% (top dozen) counties comprises 76% of the vote, and the top 40% of the counties (2 dozen) comprise 92% of the vote.
6. Review the law regarding the post-election audits in your state.
Use this website: http://www.ceimn.org/searchable_databases/state_audit_laws
Most important is the existence of a Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). DRE (Direct Recording Equipment) without an associated VVPAT means any audits performed cannot reach back to the voter intent, and are therefore worthless. Click the map to go to the verified voting site.
The follow ballot types are sufficient: Any combinations with DREs without VVPAT cannot be effectively audited.
- Paper Ballots
- Vote by Mail.
- Paper and punch card.
- DREs with VVPAT
The following file provides county-by-county details on voting equipment. Review this to see if you have an auditable paper trail.
7. Locate and Review any "voter's bill of rights"
Will need to locate the "Voter's bill of rights" or similar laws in your election code that allow you to observe, ask questions, and get them answered by elections officials.
These differ in all states.
Don't know of a common place where these are all compiled, so we (COPs) may end up being that resource.
8. Locate and review "Open Meeting Laws" AKA "Sunshine Laws"
We need provisions that deal with the following areas in our tool box.
- Requirements for notice of any public meetings.
- Sometimes just "reasonable" is all they say, but may also give specific time requirements.
- Requirements for providing public records
- Typically called Public Records Acts, lie CPRA, California Public Records Act.
- These laws require that public officials provide any public records to members of the public that request them, under the theory that the government is owned by the public, and therefore those are our records.
This site is helpful: https://ballotpedia.org/State_sunshine_laws
Remaining steps only for counties that include a post-election manual audit of some kind, no matter how weak.
9. Look for archived audit report for the targeted counties for prior election(s)
These may be available from the SOS website. Create a directory for each county on your computer with names such as ST_CountyName. Do not include any spaces in the folder name. Create a column in your district file and include the folder name in the appropriate cell. Name this column WikiFileName. Copy those files onto your computer in the appropriate folder of the same name. Note, this is not the audit of the ELECTION SYSTEMS but instead the recent audit reports from recent elections. These may not be instantly available, even though they should be posted. You may have to ask for them.
10. If the audit files are not available at the SOS website:
Look in each county website and attempt to locate the audit report. If you cannot find it, then ask the county for the report(s). Use this procedure: Requesting Information Procedure
Note: In CA, we noted that the Secretary of State discontinued posting these reports on their website since the 2010 elections. No one does oversight, and they start to atrophy into doing nothing.
11. Evaluate the audits
12. Consult with Citizens Oversight experts.
Depending on our evaluation, we may want to file lawsuits to force them to comply with the law. Many laws are very weak, but something is better than nothing, and shortcutting weak laws makes them even weaker. However, we like to avoid lawsuits if at all possible and try to work with the elections officials in a business-like manner.