Election Laws, Mobilization, and Turnout: The Unanticipated Consequences of Election Reform
41 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2010
Date Written: June 24, 2010
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: Suggested Citation