By Chacour Koop Fort Worth Star-Telegram
FORT WORTH, Texas – Voters have a harder time casting ballots in Texas than any other state, election experts say.
The “cost of voting” analysis that ranks Texas lowest in the U.S. factors in registration deadlines, automatic voter registration, voter ID laws, early voting and mail-in voting.
Political experts at Northern Illinois University, Jacksonville University and Wuhan University in China first released the analysis in 2018 and updated it for the current presidential election year. It will be published in the Election Law Journal.
“State policies that impact the cost of voting are not the only factors that influence turnout, but they are arguably the most efficient way to alter the overall difficulty of voting for citizens, which is a major reason why we see variations in turnout from state to state,” Michael Pomante, a voter behavior expert at Jacksonville University, said in a news release.
Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee follow Texas as most difficult states to vote in the country. Oregon, Washington, Utah, Illinois and Maryland rank as the easiest states in which to vote.
Texas dropped five spots to the bottom of the ranking because of lags in reforms such as online voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting. The state requires most voters under age 65 to provide a reason for an absentee ballot, a law Texas Democrats have fought in the courts during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Texas Tribune reported.
“In particular, Texas has an in-person voter registration deadline 30 days prior to Election Day, has reduced the number of polling stations in some parts of the state by more than 50%, and has the most restrictive pre-registration law in the country,” the authors wrote.
Texas remained in the 50th spot when accounting for election measures states have taken in response to the pandemic. Gov. Greg Abbott expanded early voting by nearly a week but limited mail-in ballot drop-off boxes to one per county – both actions have been challenged in court.
Michigan and Virginia jumped significantly toward the top of the list because of measures the two states took to ease the voting process. Virginia, which was ranked second worst, is now 12th because state lawmakers approved an automatic voter registration law, eliminated the in-person registration deadline and declared Election Day a holiday. Michigan improved to 13th after voters approved state constitutional changes in 2018 that make it easier to register and cast ballots.