JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The PEW Charitable Trusts released their elections performance index (EPI) Tuesday, and Missouri has a top 10 spot in the country.
The EPI measures how well state and local election authorities run elections via administrative rules in a given state. PEW bases their rankings on 17 metrics ranging from general voter turnout to the voter registration rate.
Missouri performed well enough in those categories to improve to eighth place as of 2014, and Secretary of State Jason Kander noted that before he took office in 2012, Missouri sat at 13th.
“Since taking office, I’ve worked with local election authorities to make our elections more accessible and efficient while still ensuring only eligible, registered voters are able to cast a ballot,” Kander said in a statement. “I’m proud of the progress my office has made working with local election authorities.”
The 2014 midterm measurements place Missouri alongside other top 10 states like North Dakota, Maryland, Wisconsin and Colorado. California and Alabama received the two lowest rankings.
In individual metrics, Missouri ranked third lowest among states in registrations rejected and 10th highest in voter registration rate. However, Missouri also had the 41st lowest turnout among states and 44th lowest in disability or illness-related voting problems.
Even with the high ranking, the main headline for elections lately in Missouri has been the problems with St. Louis County’s elections the past few months. In April, the St. Louis County Election Board had an inadequate number of ballots for Republicans and Democrats in certain areas.
The 2014 EPI obviously would not catalogue those problems from 2016, but they could catch them in future reports.
Charles Stewart, a political science professor at MIT, led the advisory committee that developed the EPI. He says that these events could show in the voting wait time metric because just a few voter problems can drastically increase wait time.
Missouri ranked 26th in that metric for 2014.
However, Stewart also argued that the measurement dealt more with whether or not it was a statewide problem. If problems like those in Missouri were widespread, he says, it would show itself in the ranking, but not if it was an anomalous occurrence.
“You could very well have a big local problem and that wouldn’t necessarily show up in the statewide ranking,” he said.
Stewart added that PEW created the EPI to investigate elections as public policy. He hopes the findings mute some of the reactionary noise of politics that can sometimes surround elections.
“Sometimes in assessing how well elections are going, it’s easy to get distracted by shiny things or the new thing or outrageous charges,” Stewart said. “Elections get in the news these days because of charges about rigging and hacking and those sorts of things. The index tries to draw the attention… that elections really are about trying to put together a string of things that are very much in the detail.
“In that sense overall in Missouri, things are probably in a better state statewide than one would guess given the headlines in a particular city in a particular election.”