Date Published: 2017-04-21
Nicholas J. Adams-Cohen, California Institute of Technology
Clare Hao, California Institute of Technology
Cherie Jia, California Institute of Technology
Nailen Matschke, California Institute of Technology
R. Michael Alvarez, California Institute of Technology
Numerous tools have been developed that allow researchers to observe and monitor democratic elections. The presence of independent election observation is essential in safeguarding and promoting the integrity of democratic processes. The conventional methodology of in-person election monitoring, however, is resource-intensive; personnel familiar with voting procedures, physical access to multiple polling locations, and meticulous note-taking are just some of the necessary components in this qualitative methodology. Even with these conditions met, it remains difficult for researchers to cover elections beyond a local level. On the quantitative side, researchers have largely focused on post-election statistical forensics. These tools, while providing national coverage of elections, requires access to accurate and detailed data, oftentimes unavailable until after an election. Thus, any results from forensic analyses can generally only be used in postelection litigation, recounts, or other contests of election results. In this paper, we discuss utilizing one social media tool, Twitter, in election monitoring. Twitter data has some distinct advantages in that it is relatively easy to obtain, open and transparent, and can be collected before, during, and after the election. Furthermore, Twitter data has widespread coverage in larger elections. While there are drawbacks in using social media data for election monitoring, Twitter and other similar platforms can provide another means by which researchers and election observers collect real-time and high-density data to study election administration in democratic elections.