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Washington ranks 20th in Elections Performance Index, with one caveat

Washington State ranks 20th in MIT’s latest Elections Performance Index (EPI) assessment. The EPI evaluates all 50 states and Washington DC on a series of indicators to rank their overall election administration performance. Indicators include measurements of voter turnout, registration, wait times, and voter access.

After a year of election-related changes such as statewide prepaid return postage and the “Access to Democracy” package of bills that passed during the 2018 session, as well as being nationally recognized as a leader in election cybersecurity, the average ranking is underwhelming. But there are a few reasons for this.

For one, the latest ranking is based off of data from the 2016 elections, before these changes took place. Another caveat is that the methodology used to create the ranking is based off traditional voting models, and does not favor Washington’s all-mail voting model.

“Washington is a leader in elections administration. They have worked hard to get a ballot into the hands of every registered voter, and to ensure that returning ballots is easy and secure,” said Charles Stewart III, MIT political science professor in a press release from the Secretary of State’s Office. “I think it’s fair to say that the EPI was designed with a more traditional ballot-delivery model in mind, and as a consequence it may not adequately reflect the types of innovations being pursued in Washington.”

For example, EPI measurements on polling places, early voting, and mail ballot requests do not apply to Washington and likely negatively impacted the state’s score.

However, when looking at the individual indicators, Washington still scored well in several areas. Washington has the least amount of voting problems related to disability or illness in the nation and also ranks highly (12th) for both voter turnout and voter registration rate.

“I’m proud that Washington has consistently been innovative in developing ways to improve the voters’ experience and election security,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman.

Washington Elections Director Lori Augino says the Secretary of State’s Office will work with MIT to help improve the EPI by considering new models of voting and election developments.