Which State Makes Voting the Most Difficult?

Between long lines, incomplete voter lists and misplaced absentee ballots, a lot of people have encountered problems when trying to vote. Nowhere is that more true than Mississippi. The state ranks as the clear worst when it comes to impeding its citizens from voting.

This dreadful distinction is the result of a voter study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. However, Mississippi is hardly alone in its poor performance. The District of Columbia, Alabama, California and West Virginia also received low scores.

On the flip side, Wisconsin holds the honor of being the state that best ensures voting accuracy and ease. Rounding out the top five, North Dakota, Minnesota, Georgia, and Iowa also do a good job of getting the job done at the polls.

The folks at Pew had heard plenty of anecdotal evidence of voter obstruction, but decided to conduct a quantifiable, data-driven study to pinpoint each state’s problems. The organization collected statistics for both the 2008 and 2010 elections, and determined a cumulative score based on a variety of criteria, including:

  • Voter turnout
  • Voter wait time
  • Voter registration rate
  • Online registration availability
  • Voting equipment accuracy
  • Percentage of absentee ballots rejected
  • Percentage of military or overseas ballots rejected
  • Percentage of provisional ballots cast
  • Percentage of provisional ballots rejected
  • Registration problem
  • Online voting information
  • Problems for voters with a disability or illness

The resulting data lends credence to some fairly common sense ideas. For example, states that permit same-day voter registration also had the fewest reports of registration problems. Furthermore, people with disabilities or illnesses were most likely to vote in states like Oregon and Washington where voting occurs primarily by mail.

While ten states had average voter wait times of about five minutes or less, South Carolina’s voters better have patience if they want to cast a ballot – the average wait time in the state in 2008 was over an hour. Georgia’s average delay of nearly 40 minutes wasn’t much better.

Pew says it will continue to monitor voting statistics and add in 2012 data to its findings as it becomes available later this year. The organization hopes its data will illuminate each state’s voting problems to help encourage reform. “The U.S. election system works best when all eligible voters can cast a ballot conveniently and when those ballots are counted accurately and fairly,” reads Pew’s press brief.

To learn more about each specific state’s voting successes and failures, explore Pew’s fun interactive graphic here.


Related Stories:

Interactive Map: Voter Suppression by State

Let Others Do Your Voter Suppression Dirty Work, Supreme Court Tells GOP

International Observers Sent to Prevent Voter Suppression in U.S. Elections


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Mitchell D.
Mitchell D.2 years ago

Mississippi is no surprise, but I had thought Florida and Texas would be right there with them. Some states are still fighting the Civil War! And, Lee's point about the rich is on point, as the Repuglican Party is in the minority, and the more people they can keep from voting, the more the chance they can run a Plutocratic agenda.

Beth M.
Beth M.2 years ago

Pennsylvania isn't far behind.

Melissa L.
Melissa L.2 years ago

Intresting article!

Ana R2 years ago

Thank you for the info!

Tom Edgar
Tom Edgar2 years ago

I, honestly, can't recall any allegations of voting irregularities in Australia. Maybe because we have COMPULSORY voting for all over the age of eighteen. Once you turn that age you VOTE

With Americans having a voter turn out of +/- 50%. compared to ours of near 100% (Including booths in most foreign countries. Tell me. Which is the most "Democratic" voting system?

Angela Roquemore
Angela Roquemore2 years ago

This is why absentee balloting is the BEST!

Serena P.
Serena P.2 years ago

I'm surprised that NH wasn't in the top 5. I don't recall there being any issues and when we went to vote, we didn't have to stand in line that long (and there were a lot of people there!).

lee e.
lee e.2 years ago

Stephen D -- you're an a-hole -- the democratic institution was designed at it's base level to create an appropriate and legal voting system which is something that the Rpublicans have spent their "fortune" to desecrate (fairly successfully) I might add -- how much more of a reason to get out of that Party forever - they are anti-democracy personified! there is no justification for some of the illegal gerrymandering going on -- this is a "party for the rich, by the rich and of the rich" -- there is no data to support such an oligarchic institution! Not in America

Marianne Good
Past Member 2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Vera Yuno
Vera Yuno2 years ago

Texas is my choice. What did I win???? ;)