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?