Millions of people have either already voted or are planning to vote in November’s midterm election. But just how easy — or hard — does your state make it to vote?
Researchers at Northern Illinois University ranked every state to create a list of which were hardest to vote in and which were easiest, based off results collected in 2016.
“The ballot box is the central democratic institution,” study author Scot Schraufnagel said in a news release. “Voting and elections are key to democracy. One of the things that define the competency of an electoral system and the legitimacy of governing institutions is the ease in which you can vote.”
The report looked at more than 30 variables to create a “Cost of Voting Index” the researchers say represents how much time and effort it takes to vote in each state.
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That could mean things like if a state has voter ID laws and how strictly they are enforced, whether there is early voting, when the registration deadline is, whether there is same-day registration, if felons can vote, if polling stations have been reduced, or if getting an absentee ballot requires a written excuse.
Top 10 Hardest to Vote
- South Carolina
Top 10 Easiest to Vote:
- North Dakota
- New Jersey
“Particularly, since 2008, there has been a flurry of new laws which change the relative cost of voting in each state,” the study says. “Some changes, such as mail-in voting, have reduced costs while others, like registration drive restrictions and more stringent voter identification laws, have increased the ‘cost’ of voting.”
Schraufnagel argued that national voting laws, such as automatic registration or having a national holiday for voting, would decrease that “cost” and boost voter turnout, according to the news release.
“For now, we can safely argue that if states desire higher citizen participation rates in elections, a reasonable place to start would be a same-day voter registration policy. Beyond voter registration considerations, early voting polling stations and mail-in voting will, on average, increase citizen participation in elections”, the study says.
Voting rights and voter access have turned out to be major factors in some of the most closely watched races in the nation. A group of Texas students from a historically black university sued a county after alleging officials were suppressing the vote by not having early voting locations accessible to students, The Associated Press reported. Texas is the site of a fierce race between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
In Kansas, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach’s calls for strict laws to combat “voter fraud” have earned him a national reputation, and he served as vice chairman resident of Trump’s defunct voter fraud commission. Democrats have called for changes to the state’s election process and derided Kobach as “pandering to an anti-Democratic force,” the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
In Georgia, where Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp is overseeing his own election for governor, voting rights have become a campaign issue. Some have called attention to more than 50,000 registrations held up because of Georgia’s “exact match” voter verification law, absentee ballots being rejected and the closures of polling places across the state.
Kemp has denied allegations of voter suppression, and a spokesperson said the candidate was “fighting to protect the integrity of our elections and ensure that only legal citizens cast a ballot,” according to The Associated Press.