New Pew Study Identifies Seven States with Best Election Administration Performance in 2008 and 2010

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New Pew Study Identifies Seven States with Best Election Administration Performance in 2008 and 2010

Seven states performed well in both the 2008 and 2010 elections including Colorado, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin.  The Pew Charitable Trusts released an Elections Performance Index (Index) that, for the first time ever, examines election administration performance across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  The worst performing states during those years included Alabama, California, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

“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,” said David Becker, director of Pew's Election Initiatives project.  “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.”

The study builds a new baseline for measuring election administration by looking at such indicators as polling location wait times, availability of voting information tools online, the number of rejected voter registrations, the percentage of voters with registration or absentee ballot problems, how many military and overseas ballots were rejected, voter turnout, and the accuracy of voting technology. 

The report will be updated with complete 2012 data when it becomes available in late 2013.  Comparisons can then be made between 2008 and 2012, the two presidential election years, with the 2008 data as the benchmark.

Other key findings include:

  • The two states with the longest average wait times to vote in 2008 were South Carolina at just over an hour, and Georgia at more than 37 minutes. The 10 states with the shortest times had waits on average of fewer than six minutes.
  • Eight states (Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin) made all voting information online tools available in 2008 and 2010, and two states (California and Vermont) provided none.
  • Six of the 10 states with the lowest rates of nonvoting due to registration problems – Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Wisconsin – have allowed Election Day registration for at least two decades (North Dakota does not require voter registration).

A state's overall performance is calculated and averaged based on 17 measurable indicators that make up the Index; each agreed upon by an external advisory group led by MIT professor of political science, Charles Stewart.  A state with an average of 100 percent would have the best value of any state on every indicator across both 2008 and 2010, and a state with an average of zero percent would have the worst value of any state on every indicator across both years.

Methodology: This study draws upon quantifiable data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey Voting and Registration Supplement, the Election Assistance Commission's Election Administration and Voting Survey, the Election Assistance Commission's Statutory Overview, state election division records, the Survey of the Performance of American Elections, George Mason University's United States Elections Project, and Pew's reports Being Online is Not Enough and Being Online is Still Not Enough. Click here for the complete methodology.

The Pew Charitable Trusts is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.  More information is available at

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