Does threatening their franchise make registered voters more likely to participate? Evidence from an aborted voter purge

Daniel R. Biggers and Daniel A. Smith, British Journal of Political Science.

Abstract

Prior research predicts that election administration changes that increase voting costs should decrease participation, but it fails to consider that some interpret those changes as attacking their franchise. Drawing on psychological reactance theory, this study tests whether such perceived attacks might instead activate those citizens. It leverages the State of Florida’s multi-stage effort in 2012 to purge suspected non-citizens from its voter rolls, comparing the voting rates of suspected non-citizens whose registration was and was not formally challenged by the state. Within-registrant difference-in-difference and matching analyses estimate a positive, significant participatory effect of being challenged, particularly for Hispanics (the vast majority of the sample). Placebo tests show that those challenged were no more likely than those not challenged to vote in previous elections.

In case you missed opinion pieces (@NYDailyNews and @MonkeyCage) on the right not to vote and the pernicious effects of purging infrequent voters, links here:

NY Daily News: Do we have a right not to vote? The Supreme Court suggests we don’t

The Washington Post: If more states start using Ohio’s system, how many voters will be purged?

Oh, and if you want to hear a fun account of how we took a successful stab at partisan gerrymandering in Florida, have a listen to this @PlanetMoney podcast.

Why did Governor Scott wisely, if belatedly, reverse course on his illegal effort to purge Florida citizens from the voter rolls?

Because, as Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley correctly noted on Monday to Steve Bousquet, “The data provided to us by the Florida Department of State lacked complete, credible and accurate data.”

Yup. Couldn’t agree more.

Here’s my Expert Report in the case, Arcia v. Detzner.

11th Circuit Holds Rick Scott’s 2012 Voter Purge of “Potential Non-Citizens” in Florida Violated the NVRA

Today, the 11th Circuit in Atlanta granted Plaintiffs-Appellants’ appeal in Arcia v. Detzner, No. 12-15738-EE.

The opinion is Arcia v. Detzner 11th Cir. Opinion.

I served as the expert for the Arcia plaintiffs. My expert report is available here.

 

Here are some excerpts from the majority’s decision:

We reject Secretary Detzner’s attempts to have us decide today whether both the General Removal Provision and the 90 Day Provision allow for removals of non-citizens. Certainly an interpretation of the General Removal Provision that prevents Florida from removing non-citizens would raise constitutional concerns regarding Congress’s power to determine the qualifications of eligible voters in federal elections. Cf. Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., ___ U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 2247, 2257 (2013) (“Arizona is correct that the Elections Clause empowers Congress to regulate how federal elections are held, but not who may vote in them.”). We are not convinced, however, that the Secretary’s perceived need for an equitable exception in the General Removal Provision also requires us to find the same exception in the 90 Day Provision

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In closing, we emphasize that our interpretation of the 90 Day Provision [of the NRVA] does not in any way handcuff a state from using its resources to ensure that non-citizens are not listed in the voter rolls. The 90 Day Provision by its terms only applies to programs which “systematically” remove the names of ineligible voters. As a result, the 90 Day Provision would not bar a state from investigating potential non-citizens and removing them on the basis of individualized information, even within the 90-day window. All that the 90 Day Provision prohibits is a program whose purpose is to “systematically remove the names of ineligible voters” from the voter rolls within the last 90 days before a federal election. 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-6(c)(2)(A).