The Pew Charitable Trusts released the report late Monday evening. The organization reviewed 17 administration points during the 2012 elections, including the percentage of provisional ballots cast, the proportion of voter registration applications rejected, the percentage of adults who voted and wait times at the polls.
The report ranked Wisconsin third in the country in 2012, down from second in 2008. North Dakota ranked first in both elections. Minnesota was second in 2012 and third in 2008.
Wisconsin dramatically improved its data reporting between the 2008 and 2012 elections, the report said. The state faced a tremendous challenge gathering data from its 1,852 election jurisdictions but its efforts to create an online form that municipalities can use to submit information are laudable, the report said.
Still, the rate of nonvoting due to disabilities or illness increased between 2012 and 2008; wait times stretched from 7.9 minutes in 2008 to 8.2 minutes in 2012; and the number of unreturned military and overseas ballots increased slightly from 2008 to 2012.
Kevin Kennedy, director of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board which oversees elections, said in a statement Tuesday that the report should instill confidence in Wisconsin elections.
He called for establishing online voter registration, noting the state lost points in the report because it doesn't offer any. He promised to find out why more military and overseas ballots weren't returned but said the board has a program for assessing poll compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act.
The report didn't delve into contentious issues such as voter identification requirements and early voting.
Wisconsin Republicans passed a law in 2011 requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, but two Madison judges struck the mandate down and it hasn't been enforced since the February 2012 primary. The Wisconsin Supreme Court and a federal judge in Milwaukee are weighing separate lawsuits challenging the requirement.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill last month limiting weekday in-person absentee voting hours and prohibiting it on the weekends.
The Democratic National Committee posted a video online Monday featuring Vice President Joe Biden criticizing voter photo ID laws and shorter early voting hours. Wisconsin is one of four states Biden mentions.
"If someone had said to me 10 years ago I'd have to make a pitch for protecting voter rights today," the vice president said, "I'd have said you've got to be kidding."