EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- A new report by a nonpartisan public policy group says Americans spent an average of three minutes less standing in line to vote in the 2012 presidential election than they did four years earlier. An exception was Florida, where the wait increased by 16 minutes.
The report by Pew Charitable Trusts, released Tuesday, said states generally did a better job of handling elections in 2012 than in 2008. It examined 17 points about election administration, including the percentage of provisional ballots cast, the proportion of voter-registration applications rejected and the percentage of people 18 and older who voted.
"If you look at the states that perform well, they are the states that have good voter lists," David Becker, director of election initiatives for Pew, told The Associated Press in an interview Monday.
Up-to-date lists -- with accurate information about people who recently registered and without names of voters who have moved or died -- make elections more efficient by reducing the need for people to use provisional ballots if there are questions about where they live, he said.
"One of the sad truths about election administration in many states is if someone moves in December of 2012, election officials will likely not learn of it until October 2016, if they learn about it at all," Becker said.
Thirteen states had online voting registration in 2012. That's up from two, Arizona and Washington state, in 2008. Becker said five more states are in the process of starting online registration.
Mississippi was the lowest-performing state in Pew election reports for 2012, 2010 and 2008, partly because it doesn't allow online voter registration. Democratic state Sen. David Blount of Jackson, who worked for a Democratic secretary of state's office before his own election to the Legislature seven years ago, said Monday that Mississippi should change its laws to allow online registration.
"It reduces error. You don't have to read somebody's handwriting," Blount said.
Mississippi's current secretary of state, Republican Delbert Hosemann, said he is talking to his counterparts in states that allow online voter registration, including Arizona and Georgia. Hosemann said Monday that he would support such registration if it can be done securely and save the state money.
Florida's secretary of state, Ken Detzner, said, "The previous practices reviewed in the report no longer reflect today's voting laws because of last year's reforms, and we will continue to work with Pew as they develop their next report."
"This 2012 report validates the actions we took in working with supervisors of elections and the Legislature last year that created an historic amount of early voting locations and more voting hours than ever before," Detzner said.
The Pew report also says fewer non-voters in 2012 cited illness, disability or problems with registration or absentee ballots as reasons for not taking part in an election. It says the South had the lowest rate of voter turnout and the highest rate of people who didn't vote because of disability.
The information about how long people stood in line to vote came from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team that surveyed at least 200 voters in every state and Washington, D.C., within two days after the 2012 and 2008 presidential elections, Becker said.
Voting report: http://www.pewstates.org/EPI
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