Too Large, Too Small, or Just Right? Assessing the Growth of Voter Registration Rates Since the NVRA

48 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2019 Last revised: 31 Oct 2019

See all articles by Charles Stewart III

Charles Stewart III

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: September 2, 2019

Abstract

The number of people registered to vote in the United States since the passage of the NVRA in 1993 has risen by 58% in a period in which the voting-age population has risen 28%. As of 2018, only eight percent of the eligible electorate appears unregistered. What accounts for this dramatic rise in the registration rate and the apparent near-disappearance of unregistered voters? As an initial foray at this question, I pursue two methods to help us understand whether official registration statistics are “too large” and by how much efforts to remove deadwood are successful in removing voters who have moved or died. One method is a simple comparison of official voter registration reports with self-reports to the Current Population Survey. The other method compares list maintenance statistics with demographic patterns that should be driving those statistics. Using the first method, it appears that official statistics over-report actual registration rates by about five percentage points. Using the second method, it is clear that shortcomings in removing deadwood from the rolls comes primarily from removing people who move out of jurisdiction, not dead voters. The conclusion touches on the role that the analysis in this paper can play to contribute to the public discourse about voter registration patterns, and the continuing data challenges in gaining a generalized knowledge about those patterns.

Suggested Citation

Stewart III, Charles, Too Large, Too Small, or Just Right? Assessing the Growth of Voter Registration Rates Since the NVRA (September 2, 2019). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2019-28, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3446859 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3446859

Charles Stewart III (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Downloads
122
Abstract Views
928
Rank
419,390
PlumX Metrics