Study: West Virginia Ranks Low in Election Performance, Shows Signs of Improvement


Data gathered by The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Election Initiative is making waves Tuesday as the organization released four years of collected elections information, ranking all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their performances in the 2008, 2010 and 2012 elections.

According to their indicators, West Virginia is improving, but not as quickly as state elections leaders might hope.

The process for Pew’s Election Initiative team began four years ago when they gathered a group of election officials from 20 states and leading academics who study the process.

They started with 40 potential measurements, and narrowed that to 17 to create their Elections Performance Index, or EPI, a system that ranks states and the District of Columbia comparatively on their overall election performance. For the 2012 election West Virginia currently ranked 45th on the EPI, up from 48th in 2008.

Overall, Pew’s research shows states did better between 2008 and 2012. Forty states improved their scores on the Pew index, including West Virginia.


Credit The Pew Charitable Trusts
The Pew Charitable Trusts
This screenshot of the bottom portion of the overall change in rankings of all 50 states and the District of Columbia shows how West Virginia’s ranking increased from 2008 to 2012.

“West Virginia was one of the biggest improvers in the country,” said Zachary Markovits, manager of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Election Initiative.

Markovits said the state has made improvements in reducing wait times, reducing the residual vote rate, which is a measure of voting technology accuracy, and including more data in their post election audit reports.

“Theses are considerable improvements for a state to make and moving toward having better and better elections,” he said.

West Virginia’s overall ranking in the study, however, is less than impressive.

The Mountain State was one of the overall lowest-performing states on the EPI in all three years in focus, 2008, 2010, and 2012, and was one of six states ranked in the bottom 25 percent all three of those years.

Sean Greene, the Manager for Research with Pew’s Election Initiative team, said where the state is failing is in the high number of non-voting due to disability or illness. West Virginia ranks 49th out of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia in that area.


Credit Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
The chart shows how West Virginia’s voter turnout matches up to the national average during 2008, 2010 and 2012 using data from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Election Performance Index.

The state also ranks 50th in voter turnout and 40th in voter registration rates.

Greene said those rankings can improve over the next few years as the state’s online voter registration tool becomes fully implemented.

The legislature passed a bill in 2013 to allow the practice, but a spokesman from the Secretary of State’s Office said it may be early 2015 before online registration can actually begin.

The Pew’s Election’s Initiative team has also built an interactive website that allows anyone to access the information and manipulate .

On the site, you can look specifically at West Virginia’s results, compare them to the nation overall or to any specific state, and even toggle your choices of the 17 indicators you feel are most important.

“It’s a lot of information presented in a very simple way, looking at states’ comparisons, indicators comparisons and looking to compare regions and years,” Markovits said.