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.


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.