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09

By Michael D. Hernandez

For candidates, a good election is one where they win. For researchers, a good election means, in part, that all eligible voters were able to cast a ballot, turnout was strong and polling places saw short lines.

Vote signForty states and the District of Columbia showed improvements in how they administered the 2012 presidential election over the previous national contest, according to data in the Elections Performance Index, a project by elections researchers at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

North Dakota kept hold of its spot atop the index, helped in part by not requiring voter registration. The state also saw few reported problems with people voting by absentee ballot and it performed well for voters with disabilities. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado and Nevada rounded out the top five states in the index.

Seventeen indicators helped make up the measurement of each state’s elections performance, ranging from the number of mailed ballots that were rejected to how much information was provided to voters ahead of the election.

Other key findings of the index included:

  • Many of the states that performed well in administering elections in 2012 also received high rankings from the index in 2008 and 2010. States that achieved low rankings in previous years typically continued to crowd the bottom of the 2012 index.
  • Overall national performance improved on 12 of the 17 indicators of the index, including an 18 percent drop in the average wait times to vote, roughly a decrease of about 3 minutes on average. Vermont, at an average of 2 minutes, had the shortest wait time in 2012 while voters in Florida waited the longest at polling places with an average wait time of 45 minutes.
  • Ten states’ overall index scores declined during the four-year span, with Georgia dropping 7 percentage points from its mark in 2008 because of not providing complete data and the state’s rate of nonvoting because of registration and absentee ballot problems.

Michael Hernandez is an elections policy specialist with NCSL.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.

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