Voter Turnout & Equity

As we mentioned, there have been no quick and simple solutions to voter turnout problems. Still, there have been some successes around the country over the last few decades. Both election day registration and the new policy formulations of early voting have both increased turnout and the equity of those who vote in the average federal election.

However, for decades the early formulations of early voting had been decreasing over all turnout and the percentages of low-income and minorities who were voting (according to a dozen or so studies using statistical controls) (e.g., Burden et al. 2015 and McDonald et al. 2016). No one anticipated this. The reasons are complicated and numerous for the problems early voting, but two of them are as follows. Early voting caused people to cast ballots over a longer of period of time, and this diluted the importance and excitement of election-day as an event that compelled people to act. Also, it was disproportionately the Whiter, higher income voters who took advantage of early voting.

Both problems and solutions are often counter intuitive. Furthermore, the overall evidence is that the increased registration rates from Motor Voter Registration have not correlated with more people votingĀ  in the average Federal election (Burke and Murphy 2017).

Together we can find real solutions, but it will take careful, objective analysis before we scale up reforms for nationwide use and a willingness to question existing assumptions. Automatic Voter Registration is new policy idea that has potential. However, history has taught us that it is impossible to predict how new policy innovations will perform before they are implemented a few states and election years ,and data is collected and analyzed.