Voting in a Pandemic: COVID-19 and Primary Turnout in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

12 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2020

See all articles by Kevin Morris

Kevin Morris

New York University (NYU) - Brennan Center for Justice

Peter Miller

Brennan Center for Justice

Date Written: June 23, 2020

Abstract

We report the first study of the effect of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) on voting behavior. We draw upon individual-level observations from Milwaukee matched to similar observations in the surrounding counties to assess whether fewer polling places in the primary election decreased turnout in the city. We find polling place consolidation reduced overall turnout by about 8.5 points and reduced turnout among the Black population in the city by about 10.2 points. This effect becomes more pronounced as the distance between treated and control observations on either side of the municipal boundary increases, suggestive that COVID-19 itself reduced turnout separate from polling place consolidation. We conclude on the basis of these data that conversion to widespread absentee voting in the general election will result in disenfranchisement, which may be particularly marked among racial minorities.

Keywords: turnout; polling places; COVID-19

Suggested Citation

Morris, Kevin and Miller, Peter, Voting in a Pandemic: COVID-19 and Primary Turnout in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (June 23, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3634058 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3634058

Kevin Morris (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Brennan Center for Justice ( email )

161 Avenue of the Americas
12th Floor
New York, NY 10013
United States

Peter Miller

Brennan Center for Justice ( email )

161 Avenue of the Americas
12th Floor
New York, NY 10013
United States

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