The third annual Elections GeoSummit was held on Thursday, December 9, 2021, with 220 elections administrators and GIS professionals in attendance. The day’s focus was on the progress that’s been made around the country when it comes to election modernization.
Neal Kelley, registrar of voters for Orange County, California, kicked off the meeting with his appreciated keynote, which can be viewed here. Among the many benefits of using GIS in elections realized in his county, he highlighted the experience of voters:
“We use geo-enabled data and information to pull all those pieces together and provide a better voter experience by allowing voters to access this information.”
The program then turned its attention to progress across the nation, with two 2021 surveys that offered insight into the “State of the States: GIS in Elections.”
Neil MacGaffey, director of MassGIS in the state of Massachusetts, and Jonathan Brater, state election director for Michigan, offered highlights from the 2021 NSGIC Geospatial Maturity Assessment and NSGIC Election Director survey. Results from the former suggest that states continue to be in their infancy in election relationships and GIS integration in elections. And the latter study agrees: most state GIS offices are not connecting and working with the elections division and the relationship is not formalized. Only one in five state election directors work with their state geographic information officer to improve election administration, and only one in three of those who responded use GIS for elections on a state level. The two speakers suggest that progress, therefore, could be easy. Said Brater:
”Just by having conversations and establishing a relationship with a GIO, a lot of states could make headway.”
In the panel session entitled Technology for Good, facilitators John Dziurlaj and Gary Bilotta were joined by voter registration system (VRS) vendors Heather Brooks and Neil McClure to discuss VRS and GIS integration. The panel’s conclusion was that both willingness and capabilities are present, ready to be tapped into. Elections offices are – generally speaking – very much interested in learning how to incorporate GIS, and vendors are ready with solutions to help them transition to GIS-enabled systems that are also easier to work with than in the past.
Lastly, the Elections GeoSummit focused on how a variety of address databases, including Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) and the National Address Database (NAD), can be leveraged to ensure the quality and completeness of the voter file. That session can be viewed here.