Priorities USA Foundation, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit of the Democratic Party’s largest super PAC, Priorities USA, is embarking on an ambitious plan to research and identify possible barriers that voters face via the ballot process in various states.
Priorities USA Foundation has begun to collect ballot information—such as instances when voters had to file provisional ballots, cases where votes were cast for only a portion of the ballot, and times where ballots were discarded—to detect patterns and spotlight discrepancies that may exist in counting procedures. The group is focusing on communities of color and young people and calling its initiative the “Voter Research Project.”
“The research will be looking into such potential issues as disparities in ballot counting procedures—especially among provisional ballots—and the impact of “under-voting” and discarded ballots in these communities,” a release from the organization said. “As a first step in this process, the Priorities USA Foundation contracted with an outside company to request anonymized ballot information from a representative sample of precincts throughout the state of Michigan.”
The initiatives are primarily focused so far on Midwestern states that were narrowly won by President Trump. The underlying purpose is not to contest official results of the 2016 presidential election but rather to inform and bolster future voter right protections. The group could use its research as an additional measure to lawsuits against voter suppression in a number of states nationwide, including Missouri, Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.
Specifically, the group intends to examine how provisional ballots are distributed and counted, the consistency of the actual counting process among different communities, and whether “under-voting”—i.e. when someone casts a ballot for only a portion of available races—and discarded ballots are disproportionately impacting communities of color and young people.
In addition to the ballot information retrieved from Michigan, Priorities will also look at data in Wisconsin. Once the project is completed, the group hopes to share its findings and issue recommendations if applicable.
“Research is no small feat and we are committed to ensuring this project is both in depth and thorough,” Symone Sanders, a strategist for the group, told The Daily Beast.
Update 9:58 p.m., 8/27/18: This article has been updated and corrected to reflect the fact that the 501(c)(3) is doing this work, not the super PAC.