A Voter's Eye View of the 2012 Election
48 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2013 Last revised: 19 Apr 2013
Date Written: March 26, 2013
Primarily using responses to the 2012 Survey of the Performance of American Elections (SPAE), this paper paints a portrait of election administration from the perspective of the experience of voters in the most recent presidential election. It examines both the experience on Election Day itself and attitudes about the election. Because of the design of the SPAE, it is possible to provide descriptions about the national electorate and the electorates of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Because this is the second administration of essentially the identical instrument across two succeeding presidential elections, it is also possible to gain some insight into how the politics of election administration may have affected the experience of voters and the attitudes of citizens about elections.
The high-level findings are these. First, the experience for the vast majority of voters in 2012 was positive, as it was in 2008. Second, requiring voters to show photo ID in order to vote remains popular, though less so than in 2008. Third, states varied by an order-of-magnitude (from top to bottom) in the amount of time citizens waited in line to vote — Vermont was the lowest (1.5 minutes, on average), Florida the highest (39 minutes). Minority voters and city-dwellers (especially city-dwellers who voted early) wait in lines the longest. Fourth, attitudes about possible election reforms have become more polarized around partisan lines than they were in 2008.
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