The Relationship between In-Person Voting, Consolidated Polling Locations, and Absentee Voting on COVID-19: Evidence from the Wisconsin Primary

18 Pages Posted: 11 May 2020

See all articles by Chad D. Cotti

Chad D. Cotti

University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh

Bryan Engelhardt

University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh - Department of Economics

Joshua Foster

University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh

Erik Nesson

Ball State University - Department of Economics

Paul Niekamp

Ball State University - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 10, 2020

Abstract

On April 7, 2020, Wisconsin held a major election for state positions and presidential preferences for both major parties. News reports showed pictures of long lines of voters due to fewer polling locations and suggested that the election may further the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A contract-tracing analysis by the Wisconsin Department of Health identified 52 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to in-person voting, but no research has conducted a broader analysis of the extent to which in-person voting increased the number of COVID-19 cases. We use county level data on voting and COVID-19 tests to connect the election to the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We find a statistically and economically significant association between in-person voting and the spread of COVID-19 two to three weeks after the election. Furthermore, we find the consolidation of polling locations, and relatively fewer absentee votes, increased positive testing rates two to three weeks after the election. Our results offer estimates of the potential increased costs of in-person voting as well as potential benefits of absentee voting during a pandemic.

Keywords: Absentee Voting, Coronavirus, COVID-19, In-Person Voting, Wisconsin Primary Election, Pandemic, SARS-CoV-2

JEL Classification: D72, I1, I18, H75

Suggested Citation

Cotti, Chad D. and Engelhardt, Bryan and Foster, Joshua and Nesson, Erik and Niekamp, Paul, The Relationship between In-Person Voting, Consolidated Polling Locations, and Absentee Voting on COVID-19: Evidence from the Wisconsin Primary (May 10, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3597233 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3597233

Chad D. Cotti (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh ( email )

800 Algoma Blvd
Oshkosh, WI WI 54901
United States

Bryan Engelhardt

University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh - Department of Economics ( email )

800 Algoma Blvd.
Oshkosh, WI 54901
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://uwosh.edu/cob/people/engelhardt-bryan/

Joshua Foster

University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh ( email )

800 Algoma Blvd.
Oshkosh, WI 54901
United States

Erik Nesson

Ball State University - Department of Economics ( email )

Muncie, IN 47306-0340
United States

Paul Niekamp

Ball State University - Department of Economics ( email )

Muncie, IN 47306-0340
United States

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