Overall, states did better on elections performance in 2012 than they did in 2008. This update begins to clarify what it takes to be a leading state, which will help others improve in the coming years. These and other results are discussed in depth in the brief, but the key findings are:
- Elections performance improved overall. Nationally, the overall average improved 4.4 percentage points in 2012 compared with 2008; the scores of 21 states and the District of Columbia improved at a rate greater than the national average; 19 states' averages improved but by less than the national average increase; and 10 states' averages declined.
- High-performing states tended to remain high-performing and vice versa. Most of the highest-performing states in 2012—those in the top 25 percent—were also among the highest performers in 2008 and 2010. The same was true for the lowest-performing states in all three years. In looking at these two groups, a picture begins to emerge of the distinctions between high and low performers.
- Gains were seen in most indicators. Of the 17 indicators, overall national performance improved on 12, including a decrease in the average wait times to vote and an increase in the number of states allowing online voter registration. In addition, the index revealed some stark regional differences across indicators. For example, the South had the lowest voter turnout and highest rate of nonvoting due to disability, as well as states with the highest average voting wait time.
The findings also reveal the steps that states can take to improve their scores and make elections more cost effective and efficient, including:
- Ensuring the collection of more and better elections data.
- Implementing online voter registration.
- Upgrading voter registration systems.
- Offering a complete set of online voting information lookup tools.
- Requiring postelection audits.
Nearly all of these steps were also recently recommended by the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration.
States' election performance is measured using the 17 indicators, which include wait times at polling locations, availability of online voting information tools, rejection of voter registrations, turnout, and accuracy of voting technology. These scores are then averaged and compared with the nation as a whole to determine each state's overall EPI average.
To learn more about your state's election performance, visit our online interactive report.
State Fact Sheets
About the Research
Led by election initiatives director David Becker, this research was conducted by Pew staff members Sean Greene, Zachary Markovits, Heather Creek, and Maria Ho.
This study draws on 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 and its 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. View the complete methodology.
The Pew Charitable Trusts would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Democracy Fund, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
 Presidential Commission on Election Administration, The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (January 2014), https://www.supportthevoter.gov/files/2014/01/Amer-Voting-Exper-final-draft-01-09-14-508.pdf
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