The National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) has released its 2022 State Election Director Report. The report, which was prepared by NSGIC’s Geo-Enabled Elections project, documents progress in the use of geographic information system (GIS) technology in elections across the United States since the project was begun in 2017.
Election directors from 28 states and territories were interviewed or surveyed for the latest report, and the report’s authors noted that 86 percent of U.S. states and territories have participated in the Geo-Enabled Elections project.
When discussing expanded use of GIS technology in elections, election directors cited a greater use of audits to verify voter lists and a significant increase in real-time updates of voter addresses.
However, in other areas, expanding the use of GIS is moving slowly. According to the report, only 39 percent of election directors said they have a voter registration system (VRS) that can use geospatial data, and among that 39 percent some are not yet using that functionality. The report notes that “most” state election directors hope to have a VRS that supports GIS by 2027, missing the next two mid-term elections and the next general election.
Expanding on election audits, the report notes that while the use of GIS in audits have increased, several states “continue to do spatial data audits irregularly, or lack some of the spatial data needed to conduct a complete audit.” Even among states that do use spatial audits, not all use complete, external address information.
Arguing in favor of increasing the integration of GIS in elections, the report says that using GIS can save time, reduce the risk of errors, and contribute to transparency in elections, as well as yield financial benefits.
For states that are lagging behind on integrating GIS, the report finds that collaboration is essential. “Elections are inherently spatial,” the report says. “The involvement of the state GIO [Geographic Information Office] is imperative in any implementation and integration of GIS technology in elections. Database design, technology acquisition, and data acquisition, as well as making connections or building relationships with state leaders in information and systems technology, are in the wheelhouse of all state GIOs. Leaders must break down the silos, build up the partnerships, and leverage the long history of geospatial data coordination that exists among these professionals.”
In a press release, NSGIC project manager Jamie Chesser added, “[Collaboration between election directors and geographic information officers] is what we have seen in all states that have made significant progress, and NSGIC has worked to encourage deepening relationships between those two groups of professionals. This is perhaps the most significant accomplishment of the project.”