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

Urban Affairs Review, Forthcoming

27 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2020 Last revised: 30 Jan 2021

See all articles by Kevin Morris

Kevin Morris

New York University (NYU) - Brennan Center for Justice

Peter Miller

Brennan Center for Justice

Date Written: December 2020

Abstract

We report the first study of the effect of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) on polling place consolidation and voting behavior. We draw upon individual-level observations from Milwaukee matched to similar observations in the surrounding municipalities to assess whether fewer polling places in the April 2020 presidential primary election decreased turnout in the city. We find polling place consolidation reduced overall turnout by about 8.7 points and reduced turnout among the Black population in the city by about 10 points. We conclude, based on these data, that polling place consolidation even accompanied by widespread absentee voting in the face of an emergency may result in disenfranchisement, particularly among Black voters.

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 (December 2020). Urban Affairs Review, Forthcoming, 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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