Why has President Trump relentlessly attacked the opportunities of Americans to vote by mail? Putting aside his baseless claims about voter fraud, efforts to curtail registered voters from casting a ballot prior to Election Day could, in fact, limit more knowledgeable voters from turning out to vote in November.

Why has President Trump relentlessly attacked the opportunities of Americans to vote by mail? Putting aside his baseless claims about voter fraud, efforts to curtail registered
voters from casting a ballot prior to Election Day could, in fact, limit more knowledgeable voters from turning out to vote in November.

Well before the COVID-19 pandemic made it public health necessity, a growing number of
states had been expanding ways for registered voters to cast ballots prior to Election Day, either in person or by mail. Drawing on five Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) pre- and post-election national surveys, as well as an original survey of registered voters in Florida, Enrijeta Shino and I find in our new article, “Political Knowledge and Convenience Voting,” in Elections, Public Opinion & Parties, that more politically knowledgeable voters are significantly more likely to cast their ballots before Election Day.

Why might more knowledgeable voters be willing to cast their ballot early? Won’t they possibly miss the unearthing of a scandalous 11th hour event that could tip their decision to support a different party or candidate? We argue that such last-minute information—no matter how salacious—does not alter the electoral sensibilities of voters who have higher levels of political knowledge. We argue that prospective voters who have a command over basic facts about government institutions and political actors—what are known as “static-general” facts—are more willing to take advantage of “convenience” voting opportunities, casting their ballot days, or even weeks, prior to Election Day. In short, having a greater facility of the players and the “rules of the game” affects both when and how voters decide to vote, even after controlling for standard socio-economic, political, and campaign factors, as well as a respondent’s partisanship, ideology, and political engagement and awareness.

We find that those who possess less political knowledge, as well as Republicans, are much more likely to hold off to cast their ballot on Election Day. If voters with less political knowledge across the American states are less likely to vote early—particularly by mail—is it any wonder the President has made voting-by-mail Public Enemy #1?

Interested in Vote-by-Mail? Two papers on rejected VBM ballots in Florida & Georgia, as referenced in @NYTimes https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/25/us/vote-by-mail-coronavirus.html are available here:

“Voting by Mail and Ballot Rejection: Lessons from Florida for Elections in the Age of the Coronavirus”

“Voting by Mail in a VENMO World: Assessing Rejected Absentee Ballots in Georgia”

 

Voting by Mail and Ballot Rejection: Lessons from Florida for Elections in the Age of the Coronavirus

Anna Baringer, Michael C. Herron, and Daniel A. Smith, available here.

Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic and its concomitant need for social distancing have increased the attractiveness of voting by mail. This form of voting is nonetheless not a panacea for election administration in the time of a public health crisis, as a widespread move to ballots cast by voting by mail risks exacerbating existing inequities in mail-in ballot rejection rates across voters and jurisdictions. This motivates our examination of the roughly 9.6 million and 8.2 million ballots cast in the 2016 and 2018 general elections in Florida, respectively, including over 2.6 million vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots cast in each. Using a selection model that analyzes all ballots cast and those VBM ballots not counted in Florida in these two elections, we find that younger voters, voters not registered with a major political party, and voters in need of assistance when voting are disproportionately likely to have their VBM ballots not count. We also find disproportionately high rejection rates of mail ballots cast by Hispanic voters, out-of-state voters, and military dependents in the 2018 general election. Lastly, we find significant variation in the rejection rates of VBM ballots cast across Florida’s 67 counties in the 2018 election, suggesting a non-uniformity in the way local election officials verify these ballots. As interest in expanding mail voting swells as a consequence of the novel coronavirus, protecting the rights of all voters to participate in electoral politics requires a characterization of the correlates of VBM ballot rejection with an eye toward considering how disparities in ballot rejection rates might be rectified.

If I find time, I might start digging a little deeper into patterns of rejected Vote-by-Mail ballots across Florida’s counties…

since it’s something I’ve written about in my report for the @ACLUFL, and since they lie at the heart of Bill Nelson’s Nelson Complaint in federal court challenging invalidated mail ballots due to mismatched signatures.