With an average score of 54 percent on a series of performance indices, California ranked 49th among 50 states and the District of Columbia in the Pew report, which was released Tuesday.
The state's biggest downers in the Pew analysis were in high numbers of mail ballots not returned for counting and a voter-unfriendly website.
"California's overall score increased from 2008 to 2012 but at a rate below the national average," Pew said. "The state is one of six that were among the lowest performers in 2008, 2010 and 2012. It was one of only two states (with Vermont) that offered no voting information look-up tools on its state elections website in 2012."
"If someone went to the secretary of state's website in California, they can't find out where their polling place is, they can't find out what their voter registration status is," David Becker, Pew's director of election studies, said in a statement.
Although Secretary of State Debra Bowen touted her technology savvy when she sought the office eight years ago, her department's website has been prone to outages.
Shannan Velayas, a spokeswoman for Bowen, said the Pew report unfairly castigates California in several respects, such as its high level of unreturned mail ballots. She said while that may be true, "we have a safety net" of allowing mail ballot voters to cast provisional ballots in person. But Pew also criticizes the state for its high number of provisional ballots.
"A provisional ballot is not a bad thing," Velayas said, contending that the Pew analysis in effect hits the state twice for the same thing.
Editor's Note: Updated at 3:55 p.m. to add comments from Bowen's office.
PHOTO: A screenshot of the the California Secretary of State website.