Election Laws, Mobilization, and Turnout: The Unanticipated Consequences of Election Reform

41 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2010

See all articles by Barry C. Burden

Barry C. Burden

University of Wisconsin - Madison

David T. Canon

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Kenneth Mayer

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Donald P. Moynihan

Georgetown University - McCourt School of Public Policy

Date Written: June 24, 2010

Abstract

State governments have experimented with a variety of election laws to make voting more convenient and increase turnout. But the impact of these reforms vary, often in surprising ways that cast insights into the mechanisms by which states can encourage or reduce turnout. Our theory focuses on mobilization and distinguishes between the direct and indirect effects of election laws. We conduct both aggregate and individual level statistical analyses of voter turnout in the 2008 presidential election. The results show that reforms such as election day registration have a consistently positive effect on turnout. By contrast, the most popular reform – early voting – is actually associated with lower turnout. We propose that early voting has created negative unanticipated consequences, reducing the civic significance of elections for individuals, and altering the incentives for political campaigns to invest in mobilization.

Keywords: election adminstration, early voting, voter turnout, election day registration

Suggested Citation

Burden, Barry C. and Canon, David T. and Mayer, Kenneth and Moynihan, Donald P., Election Laws, Mobilization, and Turnout: The Unanticipated Consequences of Election Reform (June 24, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1690723 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1690723

Barry C. Burden (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

David T. Canon

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Kenneth Mayer

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

Donald P. Moynihan

Georgetown University - McCourt School of Public Policy ( email )

Old North, Suite 100
37th & O Streets NW
Washington, DC 20057
United States

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