Hannah L. Walker, Michael C. Herron, Daniel A. Smith, “Early Voting Changes and Voter Turnout: North Carolina in the 2016 General Election,” Political Behavior (Online June 25, 2018).
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.