Special Report

States That Make It Hardest to Vote

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Voting is a right that many Americans embrace and exercise regularly, in local or state elections, and especially in presidential elections. Still, the right to vote has been the topic of much debate recently as states have enacted laws that can restrict voting ahead of the midterm elections.

In one year, legislators across 19 states passed at least 33 new laws that placed restrictions on voting. These include same-day registration restrictions and requiring a full social security number and additional documentation, beyond what is federally required, to register to vote. (These are America’s most politically divided cities.)

Because some states do not offer online registration, early voting, or mail-in voting, the process of registration can be especially cumbersome. And when it comes down to it, what makes it more difficult to vote is how much time and effort it takes for a citizen to cast a ballot.

To identify the most difficult places to vote, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the Cost of Voting Index, a nonpartisan academic study published in Election Law Journal. The study uses voter laws and policies to gauge the relative ease of voting in each state. Researchers focused on 10 categories, including registration, voting inconvenience, polling hours, and absentee voting, and more to reach at the index. States with lower values make voting more accessible than states with higher values. The voting participation rate, number of voters, and the voting age population all come from the Census Bureau and are for November 2020.

Voter participation often depends on the ease of access to registration, social media campaigns, and the state-specific policies. Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia allow election-day registration, and a handful of them are at the top of the list in terms of highest turnout. (Here are 24 Senate seats least likely to flip this year.)

One of the more interesting findings in the report is that all of the eight states ranked as most accessible to vote have a vote-by-mail process. For instance, voting by mail has existed statewide in Oregon since 2000, adding convenience for voters in the state. Oregon ranks as the fifth most accessible to vote state. 

Another finding is that many of the states where voting is more accessible are clustered on the West Coast. On the other hand, states where voting is less accessible occupy a different location in the country — most of them are in the South and the Midwest. One last differentiating factor the report noted was that the majority of the states that are imposing voting restrictions tend to be more Republican-run, while those reducing voting restrictions tend to be more Democratic-run.

Here’s a look at the other side of the coin, where the most difficult to vote are:

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50. Washington
> Cost of voting index: -1.99
> Voter participation rate: 95.7% – 2nd highest
> Voters in last election: 3,854,000 – 13th highest
> Voting age population: 6,062,910 – 13th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (59.9%); Trump (40.1%)

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49. Vermont
> Cost of voting index: -1.96
> Voter participation rate: 93.7% – 12th highest
> Voters in last election: 342,000 – 3rd lowest
> Voting age population: 528,803 – 2nd lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (68.3%); Trump (31.7%)

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48. Hawaii
> Cost of voting index: -1.89
> Voter participation rate: 93.6% – 14th highest
> Voters in last election: 630,000 – 9th lowest
> Voting age population: 1,137,352 – 11th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (65.0%); Trump (35.0%)

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47. Colorado
> Cost of voting index: -1.55
> Voter participation rate: 94.8% – 3rd highest
> Voters in last election: 2,837,000 – 22nd highest
> Voting age population: 4,570,122 – 21st highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (56.9%); Trump (43.1%)

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46. Oregon
> Cost of voting index: -1.50
> Voter participation rate: 92.7% – 20th highest
> Voters in last election: 2,402,000 – 24th highest
> Voting age population: 3,387,489 – 24th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (58.3%); Trump (41.7%)

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45. Nevada
> Cost of voting index: -1.38
> Voter participation rate: 92.9% – 18th highest
> Voters in last election: 1,351,000 – 18th lowest
> Voting age population: 2,446,372 – 20th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (51.2%); Trump (48.8%)

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44. California
> Cost of voting index: -1.33
> Voter participation rate: 93.8% – 11th highest
> Voters in last election: 16,893,000 – the highest
> Voting age population: 30,468,057 – the highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (64.9%); Trump (35.1%)

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43. Utah
> Cost of voting index: -1.31
> Voter participation rate: 94.4% – 7th highest
> Voters in last election: 1,386,000 – 19th lowest
> Voting age population: 2,392,518 – 19th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (39.3%); Trump (60.7%)

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42. Virginia
> Cost of voting index: -1.01
> Voter participation rate: 94.1% – 8th highest
> Voters in last election: 4,275,000 – 12th highest
> Voting age population: 6,760,456 – 12th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (55.2%); Trump (44.8%)

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41. Maryland
> Cost of voting index: -0.85
> Voter participation rate: 93.6% – 15th highest
> Voters in last election: 3,166,000 – 19th highest
> Voting age population: 4,805,032 – 18th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (67.0%); Trump (33.0%)

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40. Illinois
> Cost of voting index: -0.78
> Voter participation rate: 91.9% – 25th lowest
> Voters in last election: 6,058,000 – 7th highest
> Voting age population: 9,871,292 – 6th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (58.7%); Trump (41.3%)

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39. New Mexico
> Cost of voting index: -0.71
> Voter participation rate: 91.3% – 21st lowest
> Voters in last election: 938,000 – 15th lowest
> Voting age population: 1,644,069 – 15th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (55.5%); Trump (44.5%)

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38. North Dakota
> Cost of voting index: -0.35
> Voter participation rate: 87.0% – 4th lowest
> Voters in last election: 373,000 – 4th lowest
> Voting age population: 592,359 – 4th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (32.8%); Trump (67.2%)

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37. Nebraska
> Cost of voting index: -0.32
> Voter participation rate: 91.9% – 23rd lowest
> Voters in last election: 892,000 – 14th lowest
> Voting age population: 1,481,490 – 14th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (40.2%); Trump (59.8%)

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36. Delaware
> Cost of voting index: -0.30
> Voter participation rate: 90.2% – 16th lowest
> Voters in last election: 489,000 – 6th lowest
> Voting age population: 794,867 – 6th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (59.6%); Trump (40.4%)

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35. Arizona
> Cost of voting index: -0.30
> Voter participation rate: 94.1% – 9th highest
> Voters in last election: 3,649,000 – 14th highest
> Voting age population: 5,662,032 – 14th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (50.2%); Trump (49.8%)

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34. Alaska
> Cost of voting index: -0.24
> Voter participation rate: 86.2% – 2nd lowest
> Voters in last election: 330,000 – 2nd lowest
> Voting age population: 553,272 – 3rd lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (44.7%); Trump (55.3%)

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33. North Carolina
> Cost of voting index: -0.21
> Voter participation rate: 92.6% – 21st highest
> Voters in last election: 4,780,000 – 10th highest
> Voting age population: 8,251,416 – 9th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (49.3%); Trump (50.7%)

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32. New York
> Cost of voting index: -0.20
> Voter participation rate: 91.9% – 24th lowest
> Voters in last election: 8,609,000 – 4th highest
> Voting age population: 15,732,347 – 4th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (61.7%); Trump (38.3%)

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31. West Virginia
> Cost of voting index: -0.20
> Voter participation rate: 83.3% – the lowest
> Voters in last election: 773,000 – 11th lowest
> Voting age population: 1,421,567 – 12th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (30.2%); Trump (69.8%)

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30. New Jersey
> Cost of voting index: -0.18
> Voter participation rate: 92.6% – 23rd highest
> Voters in last election: 4,638,000 – 11th highest
> Voting age population: 7,246,254 – 11th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (58.1%); Trump (41.9%)

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29. Maine
> Cost of voting index: -0.08
> Voter participation rate: 92.1% – 25th highest
> Voters in last election: 766,000 – 10th lowest
> Voting age population: 1,122,572 – 9th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (54.7%); Trump (45.3%)

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28. Minnesota
> Cost of voting index: -0.04
> Voter participation rate: 93.9% – 10th highest
> Voters in last election: 3,225,000 – 18th highest
> Voting age population: 4,398,409 – 22nd highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (53.6%); Trump (46.4%)

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27. Idaho
> Cost of voting index: 0.06
> Voter participation rate: 93.7% – 13th highest
> Voters in last election: 843,000 – 13th lowest
> Voting age population: 1,430,937 – 13th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (34.1%); Trump (65.9%)

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26. Iowa
> Cost of voting index: 0.08
> Voter participation rate: 92.9% – 17th highest
> Voters in last election: 1,618,000 – 21st lowest
> Voting age population: 2,456,095 – 21st lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (45.8%); Trump (54.2%)

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25. Wyoming
> Cost of voting index: 0.12
> Voter participation rate: 94.6% – 5th highest
> Voters in last election: 280,000 – the lowest
> Voting age population: 447,274 – the lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (27.5%); Trump (72.5%)

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24. Massachusetts
> Cost of voting index: 0.15
> Voter participation rate: 91.6% – 22nd lowest
> Voters in last election: 3,249,000 – 17th highest
> Voting age population: 5,622,783 – 15th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (67.1%); Trump (32.9%)

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23. Rhode Island
> Cost of voting index: 0.17
> Voter participation rate: 89.6% – 14th lowest
> Voters in last election: 515,000 – 7th lowest
> Voting age population: 887,289 – 8th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (60.6%); Trump (39.4%)

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22. Michigan
> Cost of voting index: 0.32
> Voter participation rate: 90.6% – 17th lowest
> Voters in last election: 4,994,000 – 8th highest
> Voting age population: 7,898,874 – 10th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (51.4%); Trump (48.6%)

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21. Georgia
> Cost of voting index: 0.36
> Voter participation rate: 93.4% – 16th highest
> Voters in last election: 4,888,000 – 9th highest
> Voting age population: 8,277,442 – 8th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (50.1%); Trump (49.9%)

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20. Wisconsin
> Cost of voting index: 0.38
> Voter participation rate: 95.9% – the highest
> Voters in last election: 3,253,000 – 16th highest
> Voting age population: 4,621,303 – 20th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (50.3%); Trump (49.7%)

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19. Pennsylvania
> Cost of voting index: 0.39
> Voter participation rate: 92.1% – 24th highest
> Voters in last election: 6,756,000 – 5th highest
> Voting age population: 10,289,829 – 5th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (50.6%); Trump (49.4%)

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18. Connecticut
> Cost of voting index: 0.60
> Voter participation rate: 90.9% – 19th lowest
> Voters in last election: 1,681,000 – 23rd lowest
> Voting age population: 2,878,358 – 22nd lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (60.2%); Trump (39.8%)

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17. Montana
> Cost of voting index: 0.62
> Voter participation rate: 94.7% – 4th highest
> Voters in last election: 607,000 – 8th lowest
> Voting age population: 869,424 – 7th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (41.6%); Trump (58.4%)

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16. Kansas
> Cost of voting index: 0.64
> Voter participation rate: 92.8% – 19th highest
> Voters in last election: 1,297,000 – 17th lowest
> Voting age population: 2,232,376 – 16th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (42.5%); Trump (57.5%)

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15. Indiana
> Cost of voting index: 0.69
> Voter participation rate: 88.0% – 8th lowest
> Voters in last election: 3,002,000 – 20th highest
> Voting age population: 5,220,587 – 17th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (41.8%); Trump (58.2%)

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14. Tennessee
> Cost of voting index: 0.69
> Voter participation rate: 89.4% – 13th lowest
> Voters in last election: 3,346,000 – 15th highest
> Voting age population: 5,437,603 – 16th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (38.2%); Trump (61.8%)

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13. Louisiana
> Cost of voting index: 0.73
> Voter participation rate: 89.3% – 12th lowest
> Voters in last election: 2,041,000 – 24th lowest
> Voting age population: 3,542,004 – 25th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (40.5%); Trump (59.5%)

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12. Missouri
> Cost of voting index: 0.80
> Voter participation rate: 88.3% – 9th lowest
> Voters in last election: 2,990,000 – 21st highest
> Voting age population: 4,784,650 – 19th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (42.2%); Trump (57.8%)

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11. Kentucky
> Cost of voting index: 0.87
> Voter participation rate: 90.2% – 15th lowest
> Voters in last election: 2,210,000 – 25th lowest
> Voting age population: 3,493,939 – 25th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (36.8%); Trump (63.2%)

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10. South Dakota
> Cost of voting index: 0.87
> Voter participation rate: 87.0% – 5th lowest
> Voters in last election: 380,000 – 5th lowest
> Voting age population: 674,755 – 5th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (36.6%); Trump (63.4%)

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9. Oklahoma
> Cost of voting index: 0.88
> Voter participation rate: 86.6% – 3rd lowest
> Voters in last election: 1,631,000 – 22nd lowest
> Voting age population: 3,028,701 – 23rd lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (33.1%); Trump (66.9%)

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8. Florida
> Cost of voting index: 0.89
> Voter participation rate: 92.6% – 22nd highest
> Voters in last election: 9,720,000 – 3rd highest
> Voting age population: 17,493,305 – 3rd highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (48.3%); Trump (51.7%)

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7. Ohio
> Cost of voting index: 0.91
> Voter participation rate: 91.0% – 20th lowest
> Voters in last election: 6,128,000 – 6th highest
> Voting age population: 9,176,607 – 7th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (45.9%); Trump (54.1%)

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6. New Hampshire
> Cost of voting index: 0.94
> Voter participation rate: 94.5% – 6th highest
> Voters in last election: 797,000 – 12th lowest
> Voting age population: 1,132,738 – 10th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (53.7%); Trump (46.3%)

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5. Texas
> Cost of voting index: 1.07
> Voter participation rate: 89.0% – 11th lowest
> Voters in last election: 11,874,000 – 2nd highest
> Voting age population: 22,071,394 – 2nd highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (47.2%); Trump (52.8%)

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4. South Carolina
> Cost of voting index: 1.19
> Voter participation rate: 90.6% – 18th lowest
> Voters in last election: 2,459,000 – 23rd highest
> Voting age population: 4,074,709 – 23rd highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (44.1%); Trump (55.9%)

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3. Arkansas
> Cost of voting index: 1.35
> Voter participation rate: 87.1% – 6th lowest
> Voters in last election: 1,186,000 – 16th lowest
> Voting age population: 2,322,098 – 18th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (35.8%); Trump (64.2%)

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

2. Alabama
> Cost of voting index: 1.44
> Voter participation rate: 88.9% – 10th lowest
> Voters in last election: 2,247,000 – 25th highest
> Voting age population: 3,919,935 – 24th highest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (37.1%); Trump (62.9%)

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1. Mississippi
> Cost of voting index: 1.45
> Voter participation rate: 87.5% – 7th lowest
> Voters in last election: 1,531,000 – 20th lowest
> Voting age population: 2,258,080 – 17th lowest
> Results of 2020 general election: Biden (41.6%); Trump (58.4%)

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