Wisconsin’s elections rank among the top in the country based on their accessibility, number of voters, voter turnout and absentee ballot tracking, according to a Pew study on elections released Wednesday.
The Pew Center on the States conducted the comprehensive study based on 2008 and 2010 election data, drawing on information from statistical analysis and public reports.
The study put Wisconsin first in the nation in the 2008 elections and eighth in the 2010 elections. Data regarding the 2012 elections will be released when it is all compiled and fully analyzed, likely sometime in late 2013, according to the study.
“This study reflects very well on the state of Wisconsin, its engaged voters and the thousands of local election officials who serve them,” Kevin Kennedy, state Government Accountability Board director and general counsel, said in a statement. “For Wisconsin policymakers and residents, it provides a solid basis for confidence in our elections as well as pride in our hard-working, dedicated election officials.”
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Mike McCabe said Wisconsin’s voting success could be attributed to its nonpartisan method of running elections and the accessibility it allows citizens to voting polls.
He said the state has a long-standing tradition of allowing a nonpartisan elected administration to run the polls. The GAB is the state election authority and its members, who are retired judges, legally cannot belong to any political party.
Local Wisconsin elections are run by local city clerks elected on a nonpartisan basis.
“This nonpartisanship sets Wisconsin apart from many other states using a partisan Secretary of State to oversee the election process,” McCabe said. “When one party runs an election, it may do so in a manner attempting to favor that party.”
McCabe said the system is a model for the nation.
Jay Heck, Common Cause in Wisconsin Executive Director, agreed with McCabe on the assertion that Wisconsin’s “voter-friendly” election execution is another factor bolstering the state’s rankings.
Heck said Wisconsin’s same-day voter registration policy, which allows unregistered voters to register at the polls on the day of the election, is an attractive feature of Wisconsin voting, combined with the smooth execution and short lines seen on election day.
“In general, [this study] shows we have always been one of the best, most voter-friendly states in the country,” Heck said. “We have been traditionally second only to Minnesota in voter turnout, largely because we make it relatively simple for voters to cast ballots.”
Heck also said Wisconsin has a well-developed ballot counting system. Under a law passed about 10 years ago, voters now cast their vote on a paper ballot and then send it through an electronic scanner. This method assures a paper trail for all voters, and, according to Heck, “gets people confident that their vote is being counted.”
Heck said with the state’s current voting policies in place, Wisconsin will continue to come out on top as far as election success goes.