For Immediate Release Common Cause, Votewatch launch election monitoring program

Posted on September 17, 2004


Statistics-Based Field Study to Provide Tools to Aid in Vote Count

The Common Cause Education Fund and Votewatch, two non-partisan, non-profit organizations committed to free and unfettered elections, are teaming up to organize thousands of volunteers to monitor polls on Election Day, providing data for a statistics-based field study by Votewatch that will help determine the extent to which votes in the United States are counted as cast.

Common Cause and Votewatch will create a comprehensive citizen-driven system of "real-time" election monitoring and reporting in key states that identifies voting problems. Using statistically appropriate field research methodology, teams of trained volunteers, monitors, staff and others will be on hand to observe polling place activities and gather data that will be used to evaluate voting procedures nationwide and improve the process in future elections. The data will also be used on Election Day to address problems at the polls when and where it is possible. Common Cause is leading the volunteer recruitment effort, while Votewatch will oversee the field study and data analysis.

In 2000, 4 million to 6 million votes cast in the presidential election were "lost," according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology. That was up to one in 18 votes. The study concluded that confusing ballots and faulty equipment were blamed for the loss of 1.5 to 2 million votes, while registration mix-ups caused 1.5 million to 3 million of the votes to go uncounted. Poor polling place operations lost up to 1 million votes, the study said.

"These are problems that in many cases may have affected the outcome of elections," said Ryan Alexander, executive director of the Common Cause Education Fund. "We hope to decrease that number significantly and assure registered voters who go to the polls that their vote will be counted as cast."

"Our methodology has been created and reviewed by experts in the field, assuring that our findings will be relevant, objective and useful to election officials, news reporters, oversight organizations, and citizens," said Steven Hertzberg, founder of Votewatch. "We're not just going to uncover anecdotes about voting anomalies - we're applying the best field research techniques in order to provide true citizen oversight of our democracy."

How it works:

Volunteering for Votewatch is as easy as going online to www.votewatch.us and, when registering via the website, choosing from one of several roles to fill.

Volunteer roles for any location nationwide are:

1. Mystery Voter: Volunteers agree to vote at their local precinct at a specified time on Election Day, and then answer a series of questions about their observations either on the Internet or via telephone.

2. Reporting Voter: Any voter may register with Votewatch before Election Day and complete a questionnaire regarding his or her voting experience.

3. Closing Voter: A Closing Voter registers with Votewatch ahead of time and agrees to vote shortly before closing time at her/his local polling location, and then provides Votewatch with the final tally of the number of votes that is posted by the polling supervisor.

Volunteer roles for our targeted states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Georgia are:

1. Poll Monitor: The most structured position, poll monitors are required to spend at least four hours in a precinct recording their observations and will undergo training prior to Election Day.

2. Exit Poller: After receiving pre-election training, exit pollers will ask voters to complete a short questionnaire as they are leaving their precinct on Election Day.

Data and observations from trained volunteers across the country on Election Day will be assessed and analyzed by research staff. Timely information will be relayed on Election Day to election officials, lawyers, journalists and others for appropriate action when and where possible. Election experts and leaders in the field of survey research will analyze the data on and after Election Day. Using statistical data analysis, Votewatch aims to identify anomalies in voting results in real-time, providing insight and information before elections are certified. Votewatch findings will be used both to determine the accuracy of election results and to identify opportunities for improvements to the electoral system for future elections.

About the Common Cause Education Fund:

The Common Cause Education Fund is the 501 (c)(3) education and research affiliate of Common Cause. Common Cause was founded in 1970 as a nonpartisan vehicle for citizens to take political action and hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest. Backed by more than 300,000 members and supporters across the country, Common Cause now is in its fourth decade as a leading force in the movement to revitalize our democracy and make our political process fair and open to all Americans.

About Votewatch:Votewatch, founded in 2002, is the nation's first non-partisan, citizen-driven election monitoring organization that utilizes field research methodologies and statistical data analysis. A non-profit corporation, Votewatch brings together citizens, researchers and technologies to promote fair, transparent and accurate elections. For more information, visit www.votewatch.us.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Voting and Elections

Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.

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