NSGIC releases first-year report for Geo-Enabled Elections project

January 16, 2019  - By

Includes first draft of best practices for implementing GIS in elections.

Photo: iStock.com/YinYang

Photo: iStock.com/YinYang

The National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) has released the first-year report of phase one of its Geo-Enabled Elections project, highlighting the project’s accomplishments in the first 12 months. These include completing a baseline assessment of how far states have come, to date, in terms of integrating geographic information systems (GIS) with electoral systems, as well as assembling a team of leaders and experts to help guide the project.

The project team has also facilitated conversations with a wide range of stakeholder groups, aimed at raising awareness of the importance of using geospatial technology to increase reliability and accuracy in elections.

The Geo-Enabled Elections project, phase one, runs from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2019, with the aim to help strengthen electoral systems by supporting states in the adoption of GIS. Concretely, this means encouraging state governments to replace non-spatial “address file” systems with election precinct and voter data in a GIS format, leveraging that format’s inherent visual and analytical advantages.

The Geo-Enabled Elections project is partly funded by the bipartisan Democracy Fund Voice.

“During this first year, we’ve been encouraged to learn that while most voter data across the country is still kept in ‘address file’ tables, many state election directors are interested in the benefits that GIS can bring. Additionally, since most state governments have a geographic information officer (GIO) or equivalent on staff, the prospects for strengthening elections through the integration of GIS into electoral systems are very good,” said Dan Ross, NSGIC president and GIO for the State of Minnesota.

As part of the Geo-Enabled Elections project, NSGIC has been able to help build stronger connections between state officials responsible for the electoral system and state-level GIS subject matter experts, a critical first step towards the successful implementation of GIS in elections.

The organization, which is quickly becoming recognized as the center of expertise for how GIS can be deployed to strengthen electoral systems, also released the first draft of its best practices for how states may go about enhancing election accuracy using GIS. The five identified best practices are:

  • Convene a team of specialists
  • Collect and sustain a statewide voting unit GIS layer
  • Adopt and implement a statewide geocoding strategy
  • Assemble and provide best Available contextual GIS layers
  • Define and implement data validation processes

These draft best practices will be put to the test and further refined in five state-wide pilot studies taking place during the project’s second year. The best practices can be viewed in full as part of the first-year report.

NSGIC’s report also outlines the work that lies ahead for the project, as well as opportunities to impact geo-enabled elections in phase two of the project (pending funding).


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  1. William Tewelow says:

    Great article Tracy. Using blockchain would make the application of voting even more secure. Now that the Geospatial Data Act is law it would be good to see that this program is rolled out to all voting districts before the 2020 election.