Special Report

States That Make It Hardest to Vote

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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