Indiana leaders have made several big changes to the voting process over the past few years.
But a recent study shows that those big changes did little to make voting in Indiana more convenient or ensure fair access to voting and the accuracy of results – the elements that are most important to voters and to democracy.
The recent study from the Pew Charitable Trust in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranks Indiana as seventh worst in the nation for election performance in 2008. The state did slightly better in 2010, coming in 11th from the bottom.
The Pew Election Performance Index analyzed the voting systems of all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia against a common set of performance measurements. The study looked at 17 aspects of the voting process from voter registration to ballot counting for the 2008 and 2010 elections. Each state was evaluated based on measurements such as election administration, polling locations, wait times, the availability of online information, the number of voter registration applications that were rejected, problems with absentee ballots, access for military voters, voter turnout and accuracy of voting technology.
Indiana received attention for its voter ID law, one of the strictest in the nation. Proponents of the law claimed it would give voters greater confidence in the election process. But the law does nothing to address election accuracy, which would do far more to boost voters’ confidence that election results are correct. Indiana earned a rate of 1.9 percent on the performance index for the low accuracy of the voting technology used in the state.
The study found that Indiana has a significant problem with a low voter registration rate. In 2010, Indiana became one of only eight states to offer online voter registration. Online registration has the potential to help with the low registration rate, but the Pew study also indicates Indiana has a troubling problem with a high rate of registration rejections.
Indiana also had a troublingly high rate of unreturned military and overseas ballots as well as a high number of rejected absentee ballots. In 2008, only Indiana and the District of Columbia had unreturned ballots rates higher than 40 percent.
Glaring problems during recent elections have led to a public call for improvements to the American electoral system. But both political parties appear more interested in pressing for partisan advantage than finding solutions that make voting easier.
Susan K. Urahn, executive vice president of The Pew Charitable Trust, wrote in an article for Governing.com that data-driven reviews like these can help bridge the partisan and ideological divides that often stymie attempts to improve Americans’ voting experience.
The study provides state as well as local election officials with unbiased information about where Indiana needs to focus election improvement efforts.