The Electoral Integrity Project recently compiled a comprehensive ranking of 139 countries based on the overall quality of their election practices, taking into account factors such as campaign finance rules, overall vote count, and voter registration procedures. The United States ranked 47th out of 139.
Experts monitored presidential and parliamentary elections all over the world from 2012 to 2015, measuring the quality of each based on 49 indicators. The countries at the top were Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Germany, all scoring indexes above 80. Among the worst ranked countries were Haiti, Belarus, and Cambodia, scoring below 40.
The most widespread election problems identified by the report were related to money and media, with over "two-thirds (68%) of all elections last year having ‘failed’ standards of campaign finance, and 38% of all elections rated as 'failed' in the quality of their media coverage."
They found that inadequate regulation of campaign finance was a huge problem in both affluent and developing countries. Money in politics led to an uneven playing field for candidates, misallocation of state resources, and a general reduction in the public's confidence in elections. Experts were also concerned with the unregulated process of drawing district boundaries.
Perhaps most notably, the United States' elections were ranked the worst among all the long-standing democracies included.
"In the United States, the 2012 Presidential election and the 2014 Congressional elections were ranked worst of any long-established democracy, especially on campaign finance and electoral registration," the authors found.
Fledgling democracies such as Croatia, Benin, and Lesotho managed to score higher indexes than the U.S, showing that veteran democracies don't necessarily have it all figured out. Perhaps the longer a democracy has been around, the more opportunity for corruption and malpractice there is.
The project plans to continue adjusting their rankings based on future election cycles around the world, including 2016 elections in Australia, Russia and, of course, the U.S.