Mailing It In? Results from a Field Experiment Encouraging Voting by Mail in a 2020 Primary

16 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2020

See all articles by Daniel J. Hopkins

Daniel J. Hopkins

University of Pennsylvania

Marc Meredith

University of Pennsylvania

Anjali Chainani

City of Philadelphia - Office of the Mayor

Nathaniel Olin

City of Philadelphia - Office of the Mayor

Tiffany Tse

City of Philadelphia - Office of the Mayor

Date Written: October 6, 2020

Abstract

The ability to cast a mail ballot can be an important safeguard to the franchise. But because there are often additional procedural protections to ensure that a ballot cast in person is counted, voting by mail can also jeopardize people's ability to cast a ballot that is counted. An experiment carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates both of these forces. Philadelphia city officials randomly sent approximately 47,000 Philadelphia voters postcards encouraging them to apply to vote by mail in the lead-up to the June 2, 2020 primary election. While the intervention increased the share of Philadelphia voters who cast a mail ballot by 0.4 percentage points (p=0.017)--or 3%--many of these additional mail ballots counted only because a last-minute policy intervention allowing mail ballots postmarked by Election Day to count.

Keywords: Voting by mail, field experiment, costs of voting, voter turnout

JEL Classification: H00

Suggested Citation

Hopkins, Daniel J. and Meredith, Marc and Chainani, Anjali and Olin, Nathaniel and Tse, Tiffany, Mailing It In? Results from a Field Experiment Encouraging Voting by Mail in a 2020 Primary (October 6, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3706324 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3706324

Daniel J. Hopkins (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.danhopkins.org

Marc Meredith

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Anjali Chainani

City of Philadelphia - Office of the Mayor ( email )

United States

Nathaniel Olin

City of Philadelphia - Office of the Mayor ( email )

United States

Tiffany Tse

City of Philadelphia - Office of the Mayor ( email )

United States

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