Enrijeta Shino and Daniel A. Smith, University of Florida
Might having additional opportunities to cast a ballot increase the probability that an
individual turns out to vote? Scholars disagree over whether or not added electoral convenience bolsters voter turnout. Examining the effects of early in-person voting on public colleges and university campuses in Florida, we argue that turnout should increase when institutional barriers are lowered, as individuals, especially those who are young, have greater options to mobilize themselves, or be mobilized by others, to vote. Using individual-level election administration data and offering a series of models (differences-in-differences (DD), differences-in-differences-in-differences (DDD), and multivariate matching combined with differences-in-differences, we estimate the causal effects of the expansion of early in-person voting on eight college campuses on voter turnout. We find strong evidence that on-campus early voting increases turnout, especially among young voters.
Although the Anti-Trump vote looms large in Florida, with some independents and Republicans experiencing buyer’s remorse, mobilization of younger people of color remains the key for any prospects of a Blue Wave in Florida.
Here’s turnout, by age, of registered blacks in the 2014 General Election. Turnout among the nearly 1.8m registered blacks in the 2014 midterm was 41.5%.
And here’s turnout of registered Hispanics in the 2014 General Election. Turnout among the 1.9m registered Hispanics in 2014 was just 31.1%.
Contrast minority turnout in Florida in 2014 with white turnout, by age. of the nearly 8.5m registered white voters in Florida in 2014, 51.5% cast ballots in the November election.
If Democrats–from Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum on down–are going to win in Florida, there needs to be massive GOTV to mobilize younger minority voters to the polls.
North Carolina offers its residents the opportunity to cast early in-person (EIP) ballots prior to Election Day, a practice known locally as “One-Stop” voting. Following a successful legal challenge to the state’s controversial 2013 Voter Information and Verification Act, North Carolina’s 100 counties were given wide discretion over the hours and locations of EIP voting for the 2016 General Election. This discretion yielded a patchwork of election practices across the state, providing us with a set of natural experiments to study the effect of changes in early voting hours on voter turnout. Drawing on individual-level voting records from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, our research design matches voters on race, party, and geography. We find little evidence that changes to early opportunities in North Carolina had uniform effects on voter turnout. Nonetheless, we do identify areas in the presidential battleground state where voters appear to have reacted to local changes in early voting availability, albeit not always in directions consistent with the existing literature. We suspect that effects of changes to early voting rules are conditional on local conditions, and future research on the effects of election law changes on turnout should explore these conditions in detail.
(In each graph, the X-Axis is a precinct’s Election Day or Vote-By-Mail or Early In-Person votes cast out of total votes cast in that precinct by all three methods. The Y-Axis is Trump’s and Clinton’s share of total votes cast out of votes for all presidential candidates for each of the three methods.)