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Study ranks which states are hardest to vote in

The past two years have seen a massive spike in voting legislation, with some states expanding mail-in options and others pushing for more restrictions.

WASHINGTON — Voters in New Hampshire, Arkansas and Mississippi face an uphill battle when it comes to voting, often experiencing additional challenges in terms of time and effort required to cast their ballots compared to voters in other states, according to a new academic study. On the flipside, voters in Oregon and Washington have a far easier time, with few barriers to voting and registration.  

These rankings are part of the latest edition of a nonpartisan academic study ranking all 50 states based on the "cost" residents face to vote. 

The study focused on ten distinct areas where voting can be made more or less difficult. These include whether the state allows same-day registration on Election Day and whether the state has mail-in voting. Particular emphasis was placed on early voting options, both in-person and by mail, meaning that states like Oregon and Washington received high marks because their elections are conducted primarily by mail. 

The 2022 edition of the "Cost of Voting" index also took into account new voting laws passed by state legislators since the 2020 election. 

The study's authors noted that many states made voting easier during the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding mail-in voting. 

Oregon, which maintained its 2020 spot as the easiest state to vote in, was noted as having the country's most progressive automatic voter registration process and an all-mail voting system where each registered voter is automatically sent a ballot that they can mail back in.

The study also noted some states slid in the other direction. 

"Other states, over concerns about voter fraud and seemingly at the prompting of former President Donald Trump, took a step backward and made voting more difficult," the study's authors wrote. 

Despite allowing Election Day registration, New Hampshire sits at the bottom of the index because the state has an obtuse system for when potential voters can register. 

According to the nonprofit vote.org, New Hampshire voters before Election Day must register either in-person or by mail before the last meeting of their town or city's "Supervisors of the Checklist," a group of local officials charged with overseeing voter registration. Each group meets once, six to 13 days before Election Day. 

Registrants in New Hampshire need to check their city's website or call the clerk's office for the details and location of the meeting. 

The researchers noted that New Hampshire was also 50th in the 2020 version of the index, along with Mississippi — ranked 49th — and didn't move because those states haven't changed voting practices in any way to make voting easier. 

"Their failure to move is largely due to these states failing to keep pace with reforms like online voter registration, no excuse absentee voting, and automatic voter registration, which have taken place in other states," the authors wrote. 

Utah, which in 2020 was deemed the third easiest state to vote in, dropped to 8th this year amidst a push for more restrictions. A 2021 bill that automatically removes voter registration upon the voter's death puts the state at risk for faulty voter purges, according to NYU's Brennan Center for Justice. A defeated bill in the 2022 session of Utah's state legislature would have crippled the state's mail-in voting system, which had been in place since 2013. 

The Brennan Center's October report on voting laws noted that 2021 was a historic year for legislative activity around voting rights, with the trend continuing into 2022. The group identified seven states — Arizona, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma and South Carolina — where laws were passed this year making voting more difficult. 

In five of those states, excluding Arizona and New Jersey, at least one new voting restriction is in place for the 2022 election. 

Since the 2020 election, the Brennan Center counts 20 states where some form of restriction has been placed on voting. 

Credit: The Brennan Center

Many of these restrictions were focused on mail voting systems after the 2020 election, when a larger than usual portion of the electorate used mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Despite the lack of evidence that 2020’s expansion of mail voting led to any significant fraud, many of the conspiracy theories claiming that the 2020 election was rigged continue to revolve around mail voting," the center's researchers wrote in the report.

Ranking states by ease of voting, according to the 2022 Cost of Voting Index:

1. Oregon 

2. Washington 

3. Vermont 

4. Hawaii

5. Colorado 

6. California 

7. Nevada 

8. Utah 

9. Illinois

10. North Dakota

11. Virginia 

12. Massachusetts 

13. New Jersey

14. Maryland 

15. Maine

16. Alaska

17. New York 

18. Delaware

19. West Virginia 

20. Rhode Island 

21. New Mexico 

22. North Carolina 

23. Iowa

24. Minnesota

25. New England 

26. Arizona 

27. Michigan 

28. Idaho 

29. Georgia 

30. Connecticut

31. Louisiana

32. Pennsylvania

33. Florida

34. Montana

35. Oklahoma

36. Indiana

37. South Dakota

38. Tennessee

39. Kentucky 

40. Kansas

41. Ohio 

42. Missouri

43. South Carolina 

44. Wyoming 

45. Alabama 

46. Texas

47. Wisconsin 

48. Arkansas

49. Mississippi 

50. New Hampshire 

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