Speaking a common language
How common data format helps elections officials

By Katy Owens Hubler
Democracy Research, LLC

If you’ve been to national election conferences in the last several years you’ve likely heard the term “common data format” or CDF. What is a common data format and why is it important for elections?

What is a common data format?
In this day and age, data is king (or queen). As with everything else, elections administration has become more data heavy and more device heavy.

It wasn’t always this way. Think back to the analog age of giant cumbersome lever voting machines when there was just one “voting machine.” It was mechanical, not electronic, and wasn’t attached to any other machines that helped it serve its purpose. It allowed electors to cast their vote, and it tabulated the votes without the need to “talk” to anything else.

Now, election systems are much more than a big bulky lever machine. There is a web of different software and hardware systems that need to interact with each other in some way. Data is at the core of all of these systems, from the databases that are used to maintain voter lists, to electronic poll books used to check voters in, to devices used to tabulated votes, to election night reporting systems that display results. Read more…