Pew Charitable Trusts releases first EPI, Elections Performance Index, based on Prof. Heather Gerken’s book The Democracy Index

The flaws in the American election system are deep and widespread, extending beyond isolated voting issues in a few locations and flaring up in states rich and poor, according to a major new study from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The group ranked all 50 states based on more than 15 criteria, including wait times, lost votes and problems with absentee and provisional ballots, and the order often confounds the conventional wisdom.

A main goal of the exercise, which grew out of Professor’s Gerken’s 2009 book, “The Democracy Index,” was to shame poor performers into doing better, she said.

“Peer pressure produces horrible things like Britney Spears and Justin Bieber and tongue rings,” Professor Gerken said. “But it also produces professional peer pressure.”

via U.S. Voting Flaws Are Widespread, Study Shows –


Back in 2009, we published The Democracy Index by Heather Gerken. The book proposed a ranking system for U.S. elections that would look at everything from the average time a voter has to wait in line, to whether the polling place is adequately staffed, to how accurately votes are counted. The idea was to identify states with practices that “work” and motivate states appearing toward the bottom of the list to improve their practices. The ranking system would be publicly available, similar to U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings, and empower rank and file voters to identify problems and demand their officials look into election practices.

Thanks to Pew, we now have an interactive site where we can explore just how well different states fared during the 2008 and 2010 elections and we can definitively say that while Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Minnesota have a lot to celebrate, Mississippi, Alabama, and the District of Columbia should probably re-evaluate their current voting systems.

This graphic shows the state by state turnout:



Only 49% of eligible voters in Hawaii cast their ballot compared 78.1% in Minnesota.


This graphic shows the average times voters waited in line:

2008 vote


Vermont voters waited an average of 2.5 minutes, while South Carolina voters clocked in an average of 61.5 minutes. Hope they brought a book to read while waiting on line. Speaking of which, for more background on the EPI, read The Democracy Index.

The Democracy Index
Why Our Election System Is Failing and How to Fix It
Heather K. Gerken


Table of Contents

Sample the Introduction [HTML] or [PDF]