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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 nation in terms of the time and effort required to cast a ballot, according to a new academic study. Voters in Oregon and Washington have it easiest.

And while residents of Georgia, Florida and Iowa face greater barriers to voting since Republicans tightened their voting laws last year, all three states remain roughly in the middle nationally in terms of ease of registering and voting.

That’s partly a reflection of the fact that many deep red states, but also politically divided states like New Hampshire and Wisconsin and deep blue states including Connecticut, have had many restrictions on ballot access for years, long before the Republican-led post-election push in 2020 to revise voting legislation.

Where it is easiest and hardest to vote


State

Top 10

Oregon

1

Washington

2

Vermont

3

Hawaii

4

Colorado

5

California

6

Nevada

7

Utah

8

Illinois

9

North Dakota

10

Source: Voting costs in the US states: 2022.


State

Bottom 10

Ohio

41

Missouri

42

South Carolina

43

Wyoming

44

Alabama

45

Texas

46

Wisconsin

47

Arkansas

48

Mississippi

49

New Hampshire

50

Source: Voting costs in the US states: 2022.

The results are part of The 2022 edition of the Cost of Voting Index, an unbiased academic study that seeks to cut through the politics of voting access. The survey 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, hassle, early voting, voting times and absentee voting.

According to Scot Schraufnagel, a political scientist at Northern Illinois University and author of the study, the two categories that received the most weight were ease of registering to vote and the availability of early voting, both in person and by mail. mail. The survey’s emphasis on early voting options meant that states like Washington and Oregon, where voting takes place entirely by mail, ended up at the top of the rankings.

New York is ranked 17th, largely because it offers early in-person voting and online voter registration, but it is not among the top-ranked states because it does not have widespread vote-by-mail options. A referendum proposing to introduce the practice failed last year.


Some states are moving to expand early voting and mail-in voting

Number of days before election day when voters can vote in person or per mail





These eight states is now

completely voice mail and send

ballots for all registered voters

prior to election day.

South Carolina added

12 days early voting

this year.

Nineteen states

only allow voting

on election day.

But they

who cannot vote

the day can still

vote in absentia

vote.

early voting2 600

These eight states is now

completely voice mail and send

ballots for all registered voters

prior to election day.

South Carolina added 12 days

early voting this year.

Nineteen states allow

voting on elections only

Day. But they

who cannot vote

today can still vote

absentee ballot.


Source: Voting costs in the US states: 2022.

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

“The ability to vote by mail, where you actually get the ballot mailed to you, eliminates the need to vote early because everyone actually votes early,” said Dr. Screw nail. “Anecdotally, I have a friend in Oregon who has been telling me how ‘I got my ballot today and the wife and I are sitting at the kitchen table and we’re going to drop it in the mailbox.’ It makes it really easy to vote in these states.”

The study was first compiled by professors from Northern Illinois University, Jacksonville University and Wuhan University in 2018 as a means of empirically looking at voting in the United States. It was re-released in 2020.

This year’s rankings are the first since the avalanche of voting laws passed by state legislatures across the country after the 2020 election. 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 in the rankings.

Vermont, for example, jumped “from the middle of the pack in 2020,” when it ranked 23rd for voting access, to “the third-easiest state in 2022,” according to the study. This was largely due to its adoption of a statewide vote-by-mail system.

Wisconsin went the opposite direction, dropping to 47th from 38th, in part because the state now requires proof of residency on voter registration applications. The state also stopped using special voting deputies, officials whose duties had sometimes included conducting voter registration drives, according to the study.


Voter registration deadlines remain largely unchanged

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





voter reg2 330

Eighteen states

give residents the opportunity to do so

register to vote and

cast a vote on

same day.

New Mexico earlier

demanded that the residents

register to vote 28 days

before the election,

but in 2021 on the same day

the registration took effect.

voter reg2 600

Eighteen states

give residents the opportunity to do so

register to vote and

cast a vote on

same day.

New Mexico earlier

demanded that the residents

register to vote 28 days

before the election,

but in 2021 on the same day

the registration took effect.


Source: Voting costs in the US states: 2022.

Note: Utah and California allow same-day voter registration, but only for early voting. The researchers add days to reflect this limitation. The figures are based on the latest information available from each state.

Although the survey is nonpartisan, some conservative voting groups criticized the index for not weighing safety measures as heavily as other categories. (The study argues that vote-by-mail systems improve election security, calling them a “barrier to fraud” because “there can be more careful bipartisan or nonpartisan consideration of signature matches, ballot authenticity, and other issues related to ballot integrity. ” )

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 make no attempt, at least that I can see, to account for any of the benefits of having these kinds of rules.”

Mr. Snead, whose group has often advocated for laws tightening 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 had run a separate analysis that compared the cost of voting in each state to the number of cases of voter fraud in each state, based on a tracking database maintained by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“The idea here is that if fraud is a problem, when we make voting easier with postal voting or early voting, then we should see an increase in fraud, right?” he said. “And conversely, if a state makes it harder to vote — puts in 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, with New Hampshire restricting voting and actually seeing more fraud.”

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

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

One was a section on absentee balloting, including new identification requirements, restrictions on drop boxes and shortened return windows. Researchers also considered measures such as bans on food and water distribution by third-party groups and requirements for documentation to register to vote beyond the minimum requirements set out in the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

But while the rankings of states that passed laws with significant restrictions fell — Florida fell to 33rd from 28th, Georgia to 29th from 25th, and Iowa to 23rd from 19th — they still maintained higher rankings than many others states. Although the laws contained a number of voting restrictions such as new identification requirements for mail-in voting, restrictions on provisional ballots and reductions in drop boxes, Florida and Georgia still have early in-person voting periods that weigh heavily on the survey, and Iowa has same-day voter registration.

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

The study singles out Georgia for preventing outside groups from delivering food and water to voters waiting in line. But Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, questioned whether that provision should have been included in the study.

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

“More Georgians are turning out to vote,” he added. “Their votes are being counted. Our results are accurate because of the safeguards we have in place and people trust them.”

In fact, the ranking in the Voting Cost Index is in some cases far off from a state’s turnout. New Hampshire, for example, had the seventh-highest voter 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 surrounding new electoral laws has centered on ballots and the voting process, the Voting Cost Index also places great emphasis on the ease of voter registration. States rank higher in the index if they allow voter registration, provide for automatic voter registration, offer same-day registration, and maintain longer periods for registration.

One state that made a significant jump this year was Colorado, which “adopted the most progressive automatic voter registration,” according to the study. Under the new system, Coloradans are automatically registered to vote when they visit the offices of state agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles; they are then sent a postcard or letter informing them and offering an opportunity to opt out of 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 since registered more than 350,000 voters since it was introduced in 2020 “It was one of the really successful tools , we got implemented that kept registration really constant and thriving.”