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.