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
Date Written: December 2020
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
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