Polling Place Incidents in the November 2008 General Election



Report by UW-Madison Department of Political Science, presented at the July 21, 2010 G.A.B. meeting

Executive Summary

  • This is the first systematic analysis of polling place Incident Logs in the state of Wisconsin, based on GAB-104 reports from 1,466 polling places in the November 2008 general election.
  • To capture better the types of incident occurring at polling places, the existing Incident Codes should be revised and expanded. The new codes suggested in this report account for equipment, accessibility, and polling place incidents that were previously not differentiated.
  • Many incident descriptions were illegible, did not reflect actual incidents, or lacked adequate documentation. Recommendations are offered for improving the readability and completeness of pollworkers’ reports. These include better training, checks by fellow pollworkers, and electronic reporting.
  • The number of incidents varies tremendously across polling places, but much of this variation is due to differences in the number of voters participating. The mean number of incidents was 14.3, or slightly more than one per hour. Sixteen percent of polling places reported zero incidents.
  • A useful benchmark for future analysis the incident rate: the number of incidents divided by the number of voters. By accounting for different numbers of voters being served, the incident rate varies less than the incident count. The mean rate is .011, or approximately one incident for every hundred voters. Because incidents are not inherently desirable or undesirable, this appears to be a low rate for a high turnout presidential election.

The full report is attached below.