How Polling Place Changes Reduce Turnout: Evidence from Administrative Data in North Carolina
45 Pages Posted: Last revised: 21 Jun 2018
Date Written: May 30, 2018
How do changes to voting procedures affect participation in elections? Looking within the state of North Carolina, I estimate the causal effect of Election Day polling place changes on voter participation using detailed individual-level voter file information linked with a panel of polling place locations. Implementing a series of difference-in-differences designs, I find that changing a voter’s polling place location causes a 1 to 2 percentage point decline in general election turnout likelihood. The majority of the turnout decline can be attributed to the search costs associated with finding one’s new polling place location rather than the distance costs of traveling to the polling place on Election Day. This, along with a series of mechanism tests, suggests that providing information to voters is important to help mitigate the voting costs associated with election changes.
Keywords: elections, voting, turnout, polling places, political economy, difference-in-differences
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