The Upper Midwest offers the best access to voting polls, according to a study released Tuesday by the Pew Charitable Trust’s State and Consumer Initiatives. North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Michigan ranked in the top 15 states of the Initiative’s 2010 Election Performance Index. The Index is a composite score based on a set of measurements that include a state’s percentage of absentee ballots rejected or unreturned, data completeness, military and overseas ballots rejected or unreturned, turnout and voter registration rate.
2010’s top performing state, North Dakota, finished second in 2008. North Dakota had a 46.7 percent voter turnout, only 1.5 percent registration or absentee ballot problems, and only .1 percent of all absentee ballots rejected. 2010’s last-place finisher, Mississippi, had a 37 percent voter turnout. No accurate records were available regarding the state’s registration or absentee ballot concerns.
The nation’s largest states — according to the survey — have proven to have the worst voting access in 2010. Texas ranked 24th on the list, Virginia 25th, Florida 26th and Pennsylvania 31st. At the bottom of the list are California (48th) and New York (49th).
According to David Becker, director of the Pew’s Election Initiatives project — “Election officials can use this data to benchmark their own performance over time, and help assess which policies have been working most effectively for their own citizens. Pew’s goal in developing this new online interactive tool is to promote the highest standards of accuracy, cost-effectiveness, convenience and security in America’s election administration system.”
2012’s data will be added to the report in late 2013. At that time, a full comparison of the last two general elections (2008 and 2012) can be made. Top-ranking North Dakota’s Secretary of State Al Jager told the Grand Forks Herald: “Our goal is the morning after the election the news is all about the results and not about the voting process, and we have succeeded with that for a number of election cycles.”
This report came at a time where many Republicans have been discussing voting changes, such as cuts to early voting access days and changes to absentee voting. In North Dakota, House Bill 1400, which will cut early voting from 15 days to one week, and House Bill 1238, which prevents absentee ballots from being sent out 20 days prior to the election, are currently being considered.
According to the Performance Index, Georgia and South Carolina had the longest waiting times to vote. Oregon and Washington had the lowest rate of non-voting due to illness or disability. This is notable as these two states conducted their elections in 2008 and 2010 primarily by mail. From 2008 to 2010, the number of states that made online voter registration available increased from two to eight and the number of states with 100 percent completeness in gathering and reporting data rose from seven to 14 from 2008 to 2010.