Center for American Progress Action

RELEASE: New Report Ranks Pennsylvania’s Best and Worst Counties for Voting Access
Press Release

RELEASE: New Report Ranks Pennsylvania’s Best and Worst Counties for Voting Access

New County-by-County Analysis of Pennsylvania’s Election Administration in the 2012 Election

Washington, D.C. – The Pennsylvania counties with the worst voting access are Pike, Columbia, and Mifflin, according to a new report released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The report identifies Pennsylvania’s best and worst performers for voting access and voter experience by looking at six factors that reflect voters’ ability to participate in the democratic process: voter turnout, overall voter registration rate, rate of registered voters purged from voting rolls, provisional ballots cast, provisional ballots rejected, and absentee ballots rejected.

In addition to examining Pennsylvania’s worst election offenders, the report offers county-by-county analysis of 16 other swing states—states with the smallest margin of victory between the two presidential candidates in 2012: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The report finds that with election administration delegated to officials and boards in more than 3,000 counties and localities in the United States, the ease with which one exercises his or her right to vote can depend on where he or she lives. This pattern played out in every state that was analyzed.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Pike County stood out on two election administration factors—it was the worst of the Pennsylvania counties we examined on the rate of absentee ballots rejected and the rate of voters removed from the voter rolls.
  • Columbia County fared poorly on election administration factors as well, but stood out for poor voter participation rates. It had the fourth-worst voter turnout rate and the fifth-worst voter registration rate.
  • Mifflin County also had poor voter participation rates. It had the worst voter registration rate in the state and the third-worst voter turnout rate.
  • Although Philadelphia County did not appear at the top of the list for poor election performance, it is worth noting its poor performance in terms of provisional ballots. Philadelphia County had the worst rate of provisional ballots cast among the counties examined in Pennsylvania, at more than 4 percent of all ballots cast on Election Day. Its rate of provisional ballots cast was more than eight times the state average. According to reports, the debacle on provisional ballots in Philadelphia County was caused in part by the failure of some polling locations to have supplemental poll books with voter registration information and some poll workers who instructed voters to cast provisional ballots without checking supplemental poll books. A disturbing report by city commissioners found that the majority of voters forced to vote provisionally should have been able to cast regular ballots.

The report’s findings provide insights that can help officials, policymakers, and advocates better understand voting administration practices that work. By comparing voter access and experience across Pennsylvania’s counties, officials can determine the best practices for ensuring that citizens have an equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process.

Read the report: Unequal Access: A County-by-County Analysis of Election Administration in Swing States in the 2012 Election by Anna Chu, Joshua Field, and Charles Posner

To speak with experts on this issue, please contact Madeline Meth at [email protected] or 202.741.6277.