I want to offer a brief response to Rick Hasen’s post about the release of Pew’s 2012 Election Performance Index. Now that we can assess state performance across two comparable elections, he asks an excellent question: Will we see states trying to improve their performance? I suggested as much in my book, The Democracy Index: Why Our System is Failing and How to Fix It, where I proposed creating a ranking like the EPI. It’s only been a few days, of course, but the early returns are heartening. States are obviously paying attention; there are lots of stories about states touting their rise in the rankings or grumbling about their scores, with more discussions happening behind the scenes. More importantly, election officials are already using the EPI to push for reform.
Secretary of State Jon Husted, for instance, noted that one of the reasons that Ohio didn’t rank higher on the EPI was its failure to keep up with other states in creating an online registration system and urged his legislature to take up the bill. Iowa is paying special attention to military and overseas balloting, which pushed its rankings down. Florida was working with Pew in advance of the EPI’s release andpromises that it has already enacted transparency and access reforms that will improve its rankings next time. Indiana’s Secretary of State tells us that, as we speak, the state is working on a post-election auditing process in order to up its ranking. The state also issued “a call to action”suggesting further improvements. Georgia insists that it’s going to do a better job on data collection in the future in order to increase its score.
We see the same thing happening at the top of the rankings, also as I predicted. For example, the Secretary of State of Montana – which now ranks near the top – is not resting on her laurels. Shecalled for additional reform so that Montana could maintain its position. So, too, the Secretary of State of top-ranked Michigan, which fell just shy of the top five, has called for online voter registration and changes to absentee voting in order to move the state higher up the list. Twelfth-ranked Washington is on the hunt for ways to improve its already strong ranking. And in North Dakota, which ranked first in the nation, policymakers who oppose voting rules recently enacted in North Dakota are using the EPI as a cudgel to beat the other side, arguing that those changes put the state at risk of losing its treasured number one spot.