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The ‘Cost’ of Voting in America: A Look at Where It’s Easiest and Hardest

Voters in New Hampshire and Mississippi face the highest personal costs in the country in terms of time and effort required to cast a vote, according to a new academic study. Voters in Oregon and Washington have it easiest.

And while residents of Georgia, Florida and Iowa have faced higher barriers to vote since Republicans tightened their electoral laws last year, all three states nationwide remain roughly in the middle when it comes to how easy it is to register and vote. to vote.

That’s partly a reflection of the fact that many scarlet states, as well as politically divided states like New Hampshire and Wisconsin and deep blue states, including Connecticut, took years, well before Republicans-led pressure after the 2020 election to review voting laws.

Where it’s easiest and hardest to vote


State

Top 10

Oregon

1st

Washington

2nd

Vermont

3rd

Hawaii

4th

Colorado

5th

California

6th

Nevada

7th

Utah

8th

Illinois

9th

North Dakota

10th


Source: US Voting Costs: 2022.


State

Bottom 10

Ohio

41st

Missouri

42nd

south carolina

43rd

Wyoming

44th

Alabama

45th

Texas

46th

Wisconsin

47th

Arkansas

48th

Mississippi

49th

New Hampshire

50th


Source: US Voting Costs: 2022.

The findings are part of the 2022 edition of the Cost of Voting Index, an unbiased academic study that seeks to break the politics of voting access. The study ranks all 50 states based on the total investment a resident must make in time and resources to vote.

Researchers focused on 10 categories related to voting, including registration, inconvenience, early voting, voting hours and absentee voting.

The two categories that received the most weight, according to Scot Schraufnagel, a political scientist at Northern Illinois University and a study author, were ease of registration to vote and the availability of early voting, both in person and by mail. The research’s emphasis on early voting opportunities meant that states like Washington and Oregon, where voting is done entirely by mail, topped the rankings.

New York ranks 17th largely because it offers early in-person voting and online voter registration, but it’s not among the top-ranked states because it doesn’t have widespread options for postal voting. A referendum proposing to introduce the practice failed last year.


Some states are transitioning to expand early voting and postal voting

Number of days before Election Day voters can vote in person or by mail





These eight states are now

vote and send entirely by mail

ballots for all registered voters

before election day.

south carolina added

Vote 12 days early

this year.

Nineteen States

only allow votes

on election day.

However, those

who can’t vote for?

the day is still possible

vote in absence

mood.

early voting2 600

These eight states are now

vote and send entirely by mail

ballots for all registered voters

before election day.

south carolina 12 days added

early voting this year.

Nineteen States allow

only vote on election

Day. However, those

who can’t vote for the

day can still vote

ballot in absence.


Source: US Voting Costs: 2022.

Note: Researchers estimate these numbers based on the most recent available information from each state.

“The ability to vote by mail where the ballot is actually mailed eliminates the need to vote early, because basically everyone votes early,” said Dr. scraping nail. “Anecdotally, I have a friend in Oregon who has been berating me about ‘I got my ballot today, and the wife and I are sitting at the kitchen table, and we’re going to put it in the mailbox.'” It makes voting in those states very easy.”

The study was first drafted by professors from Northern Illinois University, Jacksonville University and Wuhan University in 2018 as a way to empirically look at voting in the United States. It was republished in 2020.

This year’s ranking is the first since the avalanche of voting laws passed by state legislators across the country after the 2020 elections. Last year, 19 states passed 33 laws restricting voting, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Twenty-five states expanded voting access in 2021, resulting in some significant changes to the rankings.

Vermont, for example, jumped “from the middle of the pack in 2020,” when it ranked 23rd for access to votes, to “the third easiest state in 2022,” the study said. This was largely due to it adopting a statewide postal voting system.

Wisconsin went in the opposite direction, falling from the 38th to the 47th, in part because the state now requires proof of residency in voter registration applications. The state also stopped using special voting delegates, officials who, according to the investigation, had sometimes led to tasks of registering voters.


Deadlines for voter registration remain largely unchanged

Number of days before the election a voter must be registered to vote





voter reg2 330

Eighteen states

allow residents to

register to vote and

cast a vote for the

the same day.

New Mexico earlier

requires that residents

register to vote 28 days

before the elections,

but in 2021 the same day

registration has started.

voter reg2 600

Eighteen states

allow residents to

register to vote and

cast a vote for the

the same day.

New Mexico earlier

requires that residents

register to vote 28 days

before the elections,

but in 2021 the same day

registration has started.


Source: US Voting Costs: 2022.

Note: Utah and California allow same-day voter registration, but only through preliminary ballot. The researchers add days to reflect this limitation. Figures are based on the most recent available information from each state.

While the study is unbiased, some conservative voting groups criticized the index for not weighing security measures as much as other categories. (The study does state that postal voting systems improve election security, calling them a “barrier to fraud” because “more careful bipartisan or impartial deliberations can be made on signature agreements, the authenticity of ballots, and other issues related to integrity.” of the ballots.” )

Jason Snead, the director of the Honest Elections Project, a conservative group, said the study “continues to emphasize that security rules are really restrictions, and really makes no attempt, at least not as far as I can see, to account for any of the the benefits that come from having those kinds of rules.”

Mr. Snead, whose group has often advocated laws that tighten voting rules and has joined an effort to give state lawmakers more power over elections, added that the index “only looks at one side of the ledger.”

dr. However, Schraufnagel said he conducted a separate analysis comparing the cost of votes in each state to the number of voter fraud cases in each state, based on a tracking database maintained by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“The idea here is that if fraud is a concern when we make voting easier with postal voting or early voting, we should see an increase in fraud, right?” he said. “And vice versa, if a state makes voting more difficult — introduces a strict photo ID or something — then we should see less fraud.”

In almost every state, said Dr. Schraufnagel, “there was either equal amounts of fraud before and after the change, or it went the other way, where New Hampshire restricted voting and actually saw more fraud.”

However, his review only looked at fraud cases tracked by the Heritage Foundation. Voter fraud is extremely rare in the United States.

To assess the voting laws passed after the 2020 elections, this year’s Cost of Voting Index study added new categories and scores.

One was a section on postal absenteeism, including new identification requirements, drop box limits and reduced return times. Researchers have also considered measures such as a ban on the distribution of food and water by third-party groups and requirements for documentation to register to vote above the minimums established by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

But while the ranking of states that have passed laws with significant restrictions declined — Florida fell from 28 to 33, Georgia to 29 from 25, and Iowa to 23 from 19 — they still maintained a higher ranking than many other states. Although the laws include a range of voting restrictions, such as new identification requirements for mail votes, limits on provisional ballots and reductions in drop boxes, Florida and Georgia still have early in-person voting periods, which the study weighs heavily, and Iowa has same-day voter registration.

In addition, Mr Schraufnagel said, some of the laws passed by Republicans were “in reality attempts to undo things that were done in response to the pandemic.”

The study distinguishes Georgia because it prohibits outside groups from providing food and water to voters waiting in line. But Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state in Georgia, questioned whether that provision should have been included in the investigation.

“I don’t know if that makes voting more difficult,” Mr Hassinger said. “Is it really that much harder to vote if you don’t get a snack while you wait?”

“More Georgians appear to be voting,” he added. “Their votes are being counted. Our results are accurate because of the security measures we have in place and people trust them.”

Indeed, in some cases, the ranking in the Cost of Voting Index is a long way from the rise of a state. New Hampshire, for example, had the seventh-highest turnout in the 2020 election, according to the Election Project, a database maintained by Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida.

While the political debate over new electoral laws has centered on ballot papers and the voting process, the Cost of Voting Index also gives a lot of weight to the ease of voter registration. States rank higher in the index if they allow voter registrations, offer automatic voter registration, offer same-day registration, and maintain longer registration periods.

One state that made a significant leap this year was Colorado, which has “adopted the most progressive automatic voter registration process,” according to the study. Under the new system, Coloradans are automatically registered to vote when they visit the offices of government agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles; they will then be sent a postcard or letter with the option of rejecting the registration.

“Even at the height of the pandemic, it registered about 200,000 eligible voters,” said Jena Griswold, the Democratic secretary of state in Colorado, where the new system has registered more than 350,000 voters since it was introduced in 2020. “It was one of the really successful tools we implemented that kept registration really constant and thriving.”

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