Vote-by-Mail Policy and the 2020 Presidential Election

A recent study of mail-ballot use and voter participation found that turnout increased an average of 5.6% during the 2020 presidential election in states that mailed a ballot to every registered voter. The effects of mail-ballot delivery were even greater in jurisdictions with historically low mail-ballot usage, boosting turnout by as much as 8%.

The downstream consequences of long waits: How lines at the precinct depress future turnout

Researchers have increasingly paid attention to the impact that the administrative component of elections has on voter behavior. Existing research has focused almost exclusively on the effect that legal changes–such as voter identification laws–have on turnout. This paper extends our understanding of the electoral process by exploring how one aspect of the precinct experience–standing in line to vote–can shape the turnout behavior of voters in subsequent elections. I demonstrate that for every additional hour a voter waits in line to vote, their probability of voting in the subsequent election drops by 1 percentage point. To arrive at these estimates, I analyze vote history files using a combination of exact matching and placebo tests to test the identification assumptions. I then leverage an unusual institutional arrangement in the City of Boston and longitudinal data from Florida to show that the result also holds at the precinct level. The findings in this paper have important policy implications for administrative changes that may impact line length, such as voter identification requirements and precinct consolidation. They also suggest that racial asymmetries in precinct wait times contribute to the gap in turnout rates between white and non-white voters.

All-Mail Voting in Colorado Increases Turnout and Reduces Turnout Inequality

The COVID-19 crisis has sparked interest in all-mail voting as a potential policy solution for avoiding in-person elections. However, past research into the effect of all-mail voting on voter turnout has found mixed results. We exploit the implementation of all-mail voting in Colorado, where statewide policy implementation was effective but turnout has been understudied, to estimate the effect of all-mail voting on turnout for all registered voters, along with age, racial, education, income, and occupational subgroups. Using large voter file data and a difference-in-differences design within individuals, we find an overall turnout effect of approximately 9.4 percentage points. Turnout effects are significantly larger among lower-propensity voting groups, such as young people, blue-collar workers, voters with less educational attainment, and voters of color. The results suggest that researchers and policymakers should look to Colorado’s all-mail voting approach as an effective model for boosting aggregate turnout and reducing disparities across subgroups.

VAH Local Leads to Broader Adoption

Over the last year or so, we have seen municipalities and counties across the country start to use Vote at Home (VAH) modeled elections, with sensational results.

The Colorado Voting Experience

Imagine the perfect voting experience. You drop by the polling place on the way to work or school. The line is moving quickly, so it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to get to the check-in desk. Once there, your registration is rapidly verified, and you’re handed a ballt by a friendly face. No one hassles you; no one unfairly questions your eligibility. You step aside to a private booth, fill out the form, and have it easily scanned. You get a receipt — and the cherished “I voted” sticker. The whole transaction takes about five or 10 minutes. Upon leaving the site, you not only experience that frisson that reminds you you’re a part of something bigger — civic pride — but also leave there in time to drop off the kids at school and make it to work on time.

Or maybe you skip the drive altogether and mail in your completed ballot after having received it in the mail. Or you thought about your choices for months but voted and returned your ballot in a matter of minutes on Election Day. In many ways, it’s a day like any other: you carry on with your duties as you otherwise would. In another way, though, it’s a special and unique experience; you participated in an act that for many was hard-fought and hard- won, that is a guaranteed right to you as a citizen, and that helps direct the course of the nation. You voted. And, because of that, you got to be one of the country’s critical decision-makers.

It may not yet be the norm, but in Colorado, and in states with more in-person and at-home voting options that resemble the above processes, a comprehensive elections model ensures an experience that benefits both voter and administrator alike. And it boosts turnout.

Changing the Way People Vote? An Examination of the Voter Choice Act and Vote Center Implementation in California

This study evaluated California’s Voters Choice Act and the effects on turnout and voting methods.

Abstract: “In 2018, California implemented a series of voting reforms under the new Voters Choice Act. Counties were allowed to opt in to the program rather than be required by law. Five counties, Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento and San Mateo, implemented the changes for the 2018 primary and general elections. This paper examines the effects from the adoption of the Voter Choice Act in 2018 in terms of turnout and voting methods, with a focus on the shift toward vote by mail. The goal of this study is to better understand who is voting when and how in the revamped California election environment. Results show that when given multiple convenience options such as vote by mail and vote centers with early voting hours, voters overwhelmingly choose to vote by mail. Results also suggest than when voters change their behavior in a reform environment, the majority move from in person voting to vote by mail rather than vice versa.”

Considerations for Adopting Voting by Mail in Connecticut

Foreword: “This report was prepared in response to Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s Executive Order No. 64 issued in February 2018, directing “an analysis of the potential methods and requirements to implement voting by mail for all local, state and federal elections.” The report was prepared with assistance from the National Vote at Home Institute (NVAHI), a 501(c)(3) organization, at the request of and under the direction of the Office of the Governor and the Office of Policy and Management, and in consultation with the Office of the Secretary of the State.”