ILLINOIS (IRN) — Illinois is among the easiest states in the country in which to cast a ballot, according to a new study.
The report, titled “Cost of Voting In American States,” created a “Cost of Voting Index” after examining 33 different factors, focusing on laws regarding registering to vote and actually casting a ballot. Differences in registration deadlines carried the most weight. Illinois finished twelfth among the 50 states thanks to a couple of recent laws.
“One was the early voting laws that have come into place. There’s also same-day voter registration,” said Scot Schraufnagel, chair of the political science department at Northern Illinois University and co-author of the report. “Illinois allows what is called Grace Period Registration, which really means you can get registered all the way to Election Day and you can do it at the voting location.”
The report ranked each state according to the time and effort it took to vote in each presidential election year from 1996 through 2016. Schraufnagel said they’ll update the results before the 2020 election. He believes the research could lead to new insights about the changing make-up of the electorate.
“What we’re particularly interested in is the effect that it has on the demographics of those who do vote,” Schraufnagel said. “We do believe there’s civil rights implications. We think there’s an education implication here, where we are sort of systematically excluding people from certain demographic groups because of the variable cost of voting.”
The research does not advocate for mandatory voting laws, but Schraufnagel said it is part of an attempt to increase overall voter turnout.
“What we are suggesting is we should be able to do better than 55-percent turnout in a presidential election,” Schraufnagel said. “In those years, even an uneducated person is going to have tons of information about the candidates and about the
issues at hand. These folks ought to have the same kind of chance to vote as everyone else.”
According to the study, improving the ease to vote across the country could lead turnout during an election year to increase by as much as ten points.
“We’ve got a couple models that we’ve run, and it suggests the effect on voter turnout is there,” Schraufnagel said. “It might be somewhat marginal, but particularly registration laws have the strongest effect.”
The study put Oregon, Colorado and California on top of the list of easiest states to vote, while Mississippi and Virginia finished at the bottom of the pack. Schraufnagel said that more thorough national voting standards make sense, adding other countries have adopted aggressive reforms in recent years.
“The United States has been the gold standard in being open and inclusive and trying to be more democratic,” he said. “We’ve fallen off that top spot, in terms of being a leader in democratic innovation and including more people in the process.”