Learning from Elections
The 2020 election provided numerous challenges to the administration of elections in the United States.
The beginning of the presidential primary season coincided with the first reported deaths from COVID-19. The resulting public health emergency confronted everyone involved in setting and implementing election policy—from governors to precinct poll workers—with fundamental decisions that would affect whether the primaries could be held as planned and ultimately whether the general election would be accessible to all. In the end, primaries were held, nominees were selected, and a record number of Americans voted.
Ensuring that all eligible Americans would have access to a safe and reliable method of voting was an enormous undertaking, and required every state to at least alter standard operating procedures, and for most states, to change laws, regulations, and practices substantially. For the first time in history, most Americans cast their ballots before Election Day.
With these seismic shifts in election administration and in the spirit of continually improving election administration using an evidence-based approach, 2020 is a laboratory beyond compare.
About the Project
The Learning from Elections project seeks to use the present moment to lay an empirical foundation for the improvement of elections in the U.S. It is not blind to the challenges of conducting empirically focused research under the current circumstances, nor to the challenges of proposing empirically grounded paths to improvement. It does proceed with an assumption—or at least a maintained hypothesis—that there is an audience (even a hunger) for fact-based analysis of election administration and the potential for those paths to inform the evolution of law and professional practice in the coming years.
Through the project, which is supported by Election Performance Project, LLC, a subsidiary of the Pew Charitable Trusts, we are supporting research that illuminates how the evolving election administration landscape has changed in recent years. Most of these changes coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, broadly considered, but election administration was evolving even before then. The research being funded focuses on mail balloting, voter registration, polling places and voter experience, administrative capacity, and combating misinformation about election administration. Overall, the project aims to support research that is grounded in the methods and theories of social science while simultaneously aiming to improve the practice of elections in the short- and medium terms.
Under this initiative, we are engaging researchers who have a long track record in working in the fields of election administration and election science as well as those whose expertise has been focused on adjacent fields, but who wish to contribute to efforts to strengthen the practice of elections in the U.S..
On December 14, we hosted a public webinar all about the 2022 election, featuring our own takes on what happened as well as highlighting other researchers' work and what they saw. For those who missed the event, a write-up is coming soon!
If you have questions about the grants or the program overall, please email any questions to the following: