Methodology

To rank the states, we devised a system of awarding points based on how each state fared according to each of the 22 factors in the report. We did this because the scales on which to evaluate states vary depending on the factor: Some factors rank states on either a “yes” or “no” scale, while others can assign rankings from 1 to 51—including the District of Columbia. For each factor, therefore, the best performing state(s) receive 0 points and the worse-performing states receive more points, with the worst-performing state(s) receiving 10 points.

States were then ranked within each category by calculating the average point values for the number of factors for which they were evaluated. When data for a factor was not available for certain states, that factor was omitted from the state average, so as to neither help nor hurt the state’s ranking.

Overall state rankings were determined by averaging the average point values for each of the three categories. This means that each factor was weighted equally with respect to how much it counted in its category, and that no single category counted more than the other. This also means that for the categories containing more factors, such as accessibility of the ballot, each factor has less overall influence on the overall rankings. People can and should contend that some factors are more important than others, but we felt this method was the clearest and fairest way.

This report credits all laws that have been passed, not just those that have been implemented. It uses the most up-to-date public sources to evaluate states as accurately as possible. It is always possible that certain data points may need to be updated as more information becomes available. The authors welcome submissions to update a state’s performance in any factor included in this report.

The table below details the process for awarding points for each factor. For a more detailed methodology and complete citations, click here to see the full report.

Accessibility of the ballot factors:

Availability of pre-registration:
Laws that allow 16 or 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State has passed a law allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote
    0 points
  3. State has not passed a pre-registration law, or has set the threshold for pre-registration after age 17
    10 points
Availability of online registration:
Law that allows for full online registration
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State has passed a law allowing for full online registration
    0 points
  3. State has not passed an online registration law, or law only allows for limited online registration
    10 points
Portable registration:
Laws that allow voters to cast a ballot following a change of address with relative ease
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State law voter registration system follows the voter so that a voter can easily vote after a change of address OR State law allows voters to change their addresses at the point of voting, such as at the ballot box
    0 points
  3. State law voter registration system does not follow the voter OR state law does not allow voters to change their addresses at the point of voting
    10 points
Availability of in-person early voting:
Laws that allow for registered voters to cast a ballot at a polling place before Election Day
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State has a vote-by-mail system
    0 points
  3. State has passed a law allowing for in-person early voting, including requiring polling locations to provide opportunities to vote on the weekend
    0 points
  4. State has passed a law allowing for in-person early voting, but does not require polling locations to provide opportunities to vote on the weekend
    5 points
  5. State has not passed a law allowing for in-person early voting
    10 points
Availability of no-fault absentee voting:
Law that allows voters to request an absentee ballot without having to provide a qualified excuse
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State has passed a law allowing for no-fault absentee voting, or has a vote-by-mail system
    0 points
  3. State has not passed a no-fault absentee voting law
    10 points
Voter identification laws:
Laws that require registered voters to show a form of identification prior to casting a ballot
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State does not require a document to vote
    0 points
  3. State law requires poll workers to request identification, but a photo ID is not required
    2.5 points
  4. State law requires poll workers to request a photo ID
    5 points
  5. State law requires voters to show any identification—photo or nonphoto—to poll workers prior to casting a ballot
    10 points
Voting wait times:
Where a state ranks nationally based on the average of wait times for voters during the 2008 and 2012 elections
  1. State's Performance
    Points added to score
  2. For state ranked 1
    0 points
  3. Among states ranked 2–5
    1 points
  4. Among states ranked 6-10
    2 points
  5. Among states ranked 11-15
    3 points
  6. Among states ranked 16-20
    4 points
  7. Among states ranked 21-25
    5 points
  8. Among states ranked 26-30
    6 points
  9. Among states ranked 31-35
    7 points
  10. Among states ranked 36-40
    8 points
  11. Among states ranked 41-45
    9 points
  12. Among states ranked 46-51
    10 points
Provisional ballots cast:
Where a state nationally ranks in terms of the percentage of provisional ballots cast out of an average of total ballots cast during the 2008 and 2012 elections
  1. State's Performance
    Points added to score
  2. State is exempted from issuing provisional ballots under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 because it offers Election Day registration
    0 points
  3. For state ranked 1
    0 points
  4. Among states ranked 2–5
    1 points
  5. Among states ranked 6-10
    2 points
  6. Among states ranked 11-15
    3 points
  7. Among states ranked 16-20
    4 points
  8. Among states ranked 21-25
    5 points
  9. Among states ranked 26-30
    6 points
  10. Among states ranked 31-35
    7 points
  11. Among states ranked 36-40
    8 points
  12. Among states ranked 41-45
    9 points
  13. Among states ranked 46-51
    10 points
Participation in the Interstate Crosscheck system:
If a state participates in the Interstate Crosscheck database
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State does not participate in the Interstate Crosscheck System
    0 points
  3. State does participate in the Interstate Crosscheck System
    10 points
Motor Voter implementation performance:
Where a state ranks nationally based on the ratio of Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV, voter registration applications to DMV transactions
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State is in "high performing" tier
    0 points
  3. State is in "middle performing" tier
    5 points
  4. State is in "low performing" tier
    10 points

Representation in state government factors:

Felon disenfranchisement:
Laws that restore voting rights to ex-felons
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State law has no restrictions on voting or restrictions in prison only
    0 points
  3. State law has restrictions on voting during parole, or parole and probation
    5 points
  4. State law has restrictions on voting during parole, parole and probation, or parole, probation, and post-sentence.
    10 points
Ballot initiatives and referendums:
Laws that allows citizens through a petition process to introduce a law or Constitutional amendment to the voters for approval or rejection, or to demand a popular vote on a new law passed by the legislature
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State has passed laws allowing for statute initiatives, popular referendums, and Constitutional amendment initiatives
    0 points
  3. State has not passed a law allowing for statute initiatives
    3.33 points
  4. State has not passed a law allowing for popular referendums
    3.33 points
  5. State has not passed a law allowing for Constitutional amendment initiatives
    3.33 points
Congressional district distortion:
Where a state ranks nationally based on the difference between the number of seats parties should have based on vote totals in the 2014 U.S. House of Representatives election, and the number of seats it actually holds
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. Tier 1: Distorted by 12.5 percent or less
    0 points
  3. Tier 2: Distorted by more than 12.5 percent and up to 25 percent
    5 points
  4. Tier 3: Distorted by more than 25 percent
    10 points
State legislative district distortion:
Where a state ranks nationally based on the difference between the number of seats parties should have based on vote totals in the most recent state House of Representatives election, and the number of seats the parties actually hold.
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. Tier 1: Distorted by less than 5 percent
    0 points
  3. Tier 2: Distorted by 5 percent to less than 10 percent
    5 points
  4. Tier 3: Distorted by 10 percent or more
    10 points
Female elected representation:
Where a state ranks nationally based on the ratio of the percentage of elected officials that is women and the percentage of the population that is women
  1. State's Performance
    Points added to score
  2. Ratio of representation is equal to or greater than 1
    0 points
  3. For state ranked 1
    0 points
  4. Among states ranked 2–5
    1 points
  5. Among states ranked 6-10
    2 points
  6. Among states ranked 11-15
    3 points
  7. Among states ranked 16-20
    4 points
  8. Among states ranked 21-25
    5 points
  9. Among states ranked 26-30
    6 points
  10. Among states ranked 31-35
    7 points
  11. Among states ranked 36-40
    8 points
  12. Among states ranked 41-45
    9 points
  13. Among states ranked 46-51
    10 points
Communities of color elected representation:
Where a state ranks nationally based on the ratio of the percentage of elected officials of color and the percentage of the population that is of color
  1. State's Performance
    Points added to score
  2. Ratio of representation is equal to or greater than 1
    0 points
  3. Among states ranked 3–5
    1 points
  4. Among states ranked 6-10
    2 points
  5. Among states ranked 11-15
    3 points
  6. Among states ranked 16-20
    4 points
  7. Among states ranked 21-25
    5 points
  8. Among states ranked 26-30
    6 points
  9. Among states ranked 31-35
    7 points
  10. Among states ranked 36-40
    8 points
  11. Among states ranked 41-45
    9 points
  12. Among states ranked 46-51
    10 points

Influence Factors:

Campaign contribution limits:
Laws governing how much a statewide and/or a gubernatorial candidate can raise for his/her campaign(s)
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. SState law limits campaign contributions to under the current presidential campaign limit, $5,400, in one election cycle
    0 points
  3. State law limits campaign contributions to between $5,401 and $9,999, in one election cycle
    2.5 points
  4. State law limits campaign contributions to between $10,000 and $24,999, in one election cycle
    5 points
  5. State law limits campaign contributions, but is above $25,000 in one election cycle
    7.5 points
  6. State law allows for unlimited campaign contributions
    10 points
Availability of public campaign financing:
Laws that offer a public financing program for elections
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State law offers at least some form of partial or full public financing program in all or some elections
    0 points
  3. State has no laws offering public financing program
    10 points
Campaign disclosure laws:
Where a state ranks nationally based on National Institute of Money in State Politics, "Essential Disclosure Requirements for Independent Spending"
  1. State's Performance
    Points added to score
  2. For state ranked 1
    0 points
  3. Among states ranked 2–5
    1 points
  4. Among states ranked 6-10
    2 points
  5. Among states ranked 11-15
    3 points
  6. Among states ranked 16-20
    4 points
  7. Among states ranked 21-25
    5 points
  8. Among states ranked 26-30
    6 points
  9. Among states ranked 31-35
    7 points
  10. Among states ranked 36-40
    8 points
  11. Among states ranked 41-45
    9 points
  12. Among states ranked 46-51
    10 points
Revolving door bans:
Laws that require a cooling off period before former public officials can work as lobbyists
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State law requires a cooling off period of at least two years
    0 points
  3. State law requires a cooling off period of one to two years, or at least until the end of the next regular legislative session
    5 points
  4. State law requires a cooling off period of less than one year
    10 points
Transparency in legislative data:
Where a state grades nationally based on Sunlight Foundation's scorecard, "Open Legislative Data Report Card"
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State graded with an "A"
    0 points
  3. State graded with an "B"
    2.5 points
  4. State graded with an "C"
    5 points
  5. State graded with an "D"
    7.5 points
  6. State graded with an "F"
    10 points
Judicial recusal laws:
Where a state ranks nationally based on CAP study, “State Judicial Ethics Rules Fail to Address Flood of Campaign Cash from Lawyers and Litigants”
  1. State's Performance
    Points added to score
  2. For state ranked 1
    0 points
  3. Among states ranked 2–5
    1 points
  4. Among states ranked 6-10
    2 points
  5. Among states ranked 11-15
    3 points
  6. Among states ranked 16-20
    4 points
  7. Among states ranked 21-25
    5 points
  8. Among states ranked 26-30
    6 points
  9. Among states ranked 31-35
    7 points
  10. Among states ranked 36-40
    8 points
  11. Among states ranked 41-45
    9 points
  12. Among states ranked 46-51
    10 points
Overall State Grades
Total Possible Points 220
  1. Best possible average state score
    0
  2. Worst possible average state score
    10
Methodology for assessing state grades
  1. Average point value
    Grade
  2. 0 - 1.49
    A
  3. 1.5 - 1.99
    A-
  4. 2.0 - 2.49
    B+
  5. 2.5 - 2.99
    B
  6. 3.0 - 3.49
    B-
  7. 3.5 - 3.99
    C+
  8. 4.0 - 4.49
    C
  9. 4.5 - 4.99
    C-
  10. 5.0 - 5.49
    D+
  11. 5.5 - 5.99
    D
  12. 6.0 - 6.49
    D-
  13. 6.5 - 10
    F

Share this with your followers

© 2015 Center for American Progress Action Fund

Press Contact: Benton Strong at Bstrong@americanprogressaction.org 202-481-8142

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy