As I’ve chatted with Oregon election officials about the Pew report on voter registration costs, one thing is clear. The numbers in the Pew for their report were solicited with little guidance and compiled in many instances as estimates.
If you look at the spreadsheet which Pew provided you’ll get an indication of this. First, there are glaring gaps in the submitted data.
For example, 16 of the 36 counties submitted no facility costs. 19 counties submitted no computer costs. 23 counties submitted no County IT costs.
These gaps demonstrate that there were few guidelines for counties to follow. Like many of these counties, I hesitate to answer questions for which I don’t have solid data. It’s always safer to not answer than to provide data that is wrong, especially when I don’t know how the data is going to be used.
Beyond those gaps, it is easy to see that many of the numbers are purely estimates. For example, Marion County’s computer costs turned out to be $30,000 and their County IT costs turned out to be $45,000. A number of other rounded numbers in the report suggest estimating as well.
Then there is the great disparity in costs from one county to another. So for example, on the facility costs we see a high of $2.37 per voter for Clatsop County and a low of $.01 for Crook County. Rather than digging in deeper to these numbers to determine why such a discrepancy would exist, Pew just reported it as is.
Just looking at the County IT costs per voter for the two largest counties reveals shocking discrepancies. Multnomah County’s IT costs per voter is 11 cents. Washington County’s is 58 cents.
Don’t differences of that nature cry out for clarification and review? This isn’t the first time that I’ve found inaccurate data that seems to be accepted only because it supports someone’s agenda.
And my opinion about the accuracy of the data is supported by some of the Oregon officials. Here are a few quotes:
the Pew Center did not provide any guidance or even require any degree of accuracy in their request.
My numbers were all rough estimates.
I was under the impression when I spoke with him by phone regarding this subject, that we did not have to spend a lot of time on this request, that indeed it was just an estimate.
Take the Pew report with a grain of salt. It fails by the most basic of research standards.