Vote-by-Mail Policy and the 2020 Presidential Election

27 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2021 Last revised: 16 Sep 2021

See all articles by Eric McGhee

Eric McGhee

Public Policy Institute of California

Mindy Romero

USC Price School of Public Policy

Date Written: August 4, 2021

Abstract

Mail voting became unusually controversial in the 2020 presidential election. Many observers, including President Trump, believed that more accessible vote by mail would encourage higher turnout at the expense of Republicans. We examine the effect of mail ballot access policies in the 2020 pandemic election with county-level data and a difference-in-differences design. Our results suggest that making it easier to vote by mail—especially mailing every voter a ballot—generally does increase turnout, both before and during the 2020 election. By contrast, the same policies do not produce more Democratic outcomes; in many models they tilt the results in a more Republican direction. While some of our findings are sensitive to model specification, the positive turnout effect of mailing every voter a ballot is robust to many alternative approaches.

Keywords: elections, election reform, vote-by-mail, turnout, 2020 election

Suggested Citation

McGhee, Eric and Romero, Mindy, Vote-by-Mail Policy and the 2020 Presidential Election (August 4, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3825939 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3825939

Eric McGhee (Contact Author)

Public Policy Institute of California ( email )

500 Washington Street
Suite 800
San Francisco, CA 94111
United States
415-291-4439 (Phone)

Mindy Romero

USC Price School of Public Policy ( email )

Lewis Hall 312
Los Angeles, CA 90089-062
United States
5306653010 (Phone)
95819-2118 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://cid@usc.edu

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
220
Abstract Views
1,165
rank
174,415
PlumX Metrics