Washington, D.C. (Dec. 9, 2013) — On a press call today with voting rights experts, the Center for American Progress Action Fund released a new report that identifies Florida’s best and worst performers for voting access and voter experience.
The county-by-county analysis looks at nine factors that reflect voters’ ability to participate in the democratic process and finds wide disparities in voting accessibility in different parts of the state and identifies some of the barriers making it harder for a voter in Columbia County to participate in the democratic process than a voter in St. Johns County.
“After the numerous reports of obstacles to voting in Florida, CAP Action has taken an innovative, statistical look at access to voting in the 2012 election that focused on the performance of each county,” said Tom Perriello, President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “This report draws important attention to the fact that Florida citizens who live in different counties may face dramatically different voting experiences. We hope that this report can foster public debate about how Florida officials can address these discrepancies to ensure that Floridians have equal access to the democratic process.”
According to the report, “Florida’s Worst Election Offenders,”six Florida counties stood out for failing to ensure that residents could freely and effectively cast votes: Columbia, Putnam, Bay, Alachua, Hillsborough, and Duval. Nearly 2 million voting-age citizens live in these six worst-offending counties.
To determine overall rankings, the report examines nine factors that reflect voters’ voting experiences and their ability to participate in the democratic process. The nine indicators analyzed include voter turnout, overall voter registration rate, voter registration rate for African Americans, voter registration rate for Hispanics, voter list maintenance, average waiting times, rates of provisional ballots cast and rejected, and rate of absentee ballots rejected.
Key findings from the report include:
Across the nine factors, Columbia County in Northern Florida ranked the worst overall for voter accessibility. Of the Florida counties examined, Columbia had the worst voter turnout of its citizen voting-age population, 53.5 percent. The county also had one of the highest percentages of absentee ballots rejected—nearly two times more than the average Florida county.
The two counties that had the best performance in the report were St. Johns and Clay. Where St. Johns counties saw more than 80 percent of the citizen voting-age population vote in the 2012 general election, Columbia, Highlands, Polk, and Putnam counties had turnout rates of less than 60 percent. In Clay County, nearly 79 percent of the county’s Hispanic voting-age citizens were registered to vote in 2012, while less than 40 percent of Sumter County’s Hispanic voting-age citizens were registered to vote.
Some of the biggest counties that have been subject to scrutiny in the past, like Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, performed among the worst on waiting times for voters and rates of provisional ballots rejected. Overall, however, these performed around average in the state.
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 Florida’s counties, officials can determine the best practices for ensuring that citizens have an equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund is the sister advocacy organization of the Center for American Progress.