Between 2008 and 2012, 40 states improved overall election performance, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts' latest Elections Performance Index released on Tuesday.
The report found Florida's election performance was average -- slightly improved over 2008 -- but researchers found that Florida had the longest wait time for voting -- an average of 45 minutes. That was an increase of 16.1 minutes over the 2008 election.
Although Georgia also had a long wait time in 2012, it also had among the largest decrease, down 19.8 minutes.
Beyond wait times, the study also considers the availability of voting information tools online, rejection of voter registrations, problems with registration or absentee ballots, rejection of military and overseas ballots, voter turnout and accuracy of voting technology.
The study found the number of provisional ballots cast and number of ballots rejected in Florida was above the national average, but the state had above-average voter registration and turnout rate, and fewer registration and absentee ballot problems than the majority of states.
The group hopes its index makes it possible for all 50 states and the District of Columbia to measure how well they conducted elections compared not only with other states, but also over time.
"We know common-sense solutions to improve elections exist. States are pioneering innovations that make a real difference in the efficiency and accuracy of their elections operations while also saving money," said David Becker, director of Pew's election initiatives project.
Overall, Georgia showed the sharpest election performance decline, dropping 7 points from 2008 to 2012. The state's voter turnout fell below the national average, and the state had one of the largest increases in nonvoting due to disability or illness. Georgia also did not add online voter registration or post-election audits of voting equipment performance, which many other states have implemented since 2008.
- 13 states offered online voter registration in 2012, compared with just two in 2008. (Neither Florida nor Georgia offer online registration)
- Wait times decreased, on average, about 3 minutes since 2008.
- Overall voter turnout dropped 3.4 percentage points in 2012 from 2008. Turnout percentages in the Midwest and Northeast were higher than in the South in 2012.
- Although the percentage of eligible voters casting ballots dropped in 2012, compared with 2008, the rate of those deterred by illness or disability or because of problems with registration or absentee ballots also fell.
- More states offered online voter information tools in 2012.
- 30 states and the district required post-election audits of voting equipment performance in 2012, compared with 22 in 2008.
The highest-performing states — those in the top 25 percent — were Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The lowest performers — those in the bottom 25 percent — were Alabama, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Six of these — Alabama, California, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, and West Virginia — were also ranked at the bottom in 2008 and 2010, and Mississippi was the lowest performer in all three years tracked.
A state's overall performance is calculated and averaged based on the 17 indicators that make up the index, each agreed upon by an expert advisory group led by Charles Stewart III, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.