Skip to main content
×
Home

Identifying the Effect of All-Mail Elections on Turnout: Staggered Reform in the Evergreen State*

  • Alan S. Gerber (a1), Gregory A. Huber (a1) and Seth J. Hill (a2)
Abstract

What effect does moving to all-mail elections have on participation? On one hand, all registered voters automatically receive a ballot to return by mail at their convenience. On the other hand, the social aspect of the polling place, and the focal point of election day, is lost. Current estimates of the effect of all-mail elections on turnout are ambiguous. This article offers an improved design and new estimates of the effect of moving to all-mail elections. Exploiting cross-sectional and temporal variation in county-level implementation of all-mail elections in Washington State, we find that the reform increased aggregate participation by two to four percentage points. Using individual observations from the state voter file, we also find that the reform increased turnout more for lower-participating registrants than for frequent voters, suggesting that all-mail voting reduces turnout disparities between these groups.

Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All
*

Gerber and Huber: Center for the Study of American Politics, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, P.O. Box 208209, New Haven, CT 06520-8209, United States (alan.gerber@yale.edu, gregory.huber@yale.edu). Hill: Department of Political Science, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0521 United States, sjhill@ucsd.edu. Earlier versions of this paper were circulated with the title “Identifying the Effects of Elections Held All-Mail on Turnout.” We thank Kevin Arceneaux and Marc Meredith for their comments. Replication material is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2013.5 or http://huber.research.yale.edu.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Arceneaux Kevin, Kousser ThadMullin Megan. 2012. ‘Get Out the Vote-by-Mail? A Randomized Field Experiment Testing the Effect of Mobilization in Traditional and Vote-by-Mail Precincts’. Political Research Quarterly 65:882894.
Bergman ElizabethYates Philip. 2011. ‘Changing Election Methods: How Does Mandated Vote-By-Mail Affect Individual Registrants?’ Election Law Journal 10(2):115127.
Berinsky Adam J. 2005. ‘The Perverse Consequences of Electoral Reform in the United States’. American Politics Research 33(4):471491.
Berinsky Adam J., Burns NancyTraugott Michael W.. 2001. ‘Who Votes by Mail?: A Dynamic Model of the Individual-Level Consequences of Voting-by-Mail Systems’. Public Opinion Quarterly 65(2):178197.
Bertrand Marianne, Duflo EstherMullainathan Sendhil. 2004. ‘How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?’ The Quarterly Journal of Economics 119(1):249275.
Brady Henry E.McNulty John E.. 2011. ‘Turning Out to Vote: The Costs of Finding and Getting to the Polling Place’. American Political Science Review 105(1):115134.
Funk Patricia. 2010. ‘Social Incentives and Voter Turnout: Evidence from the Swiss Mail Ballot System’. Journal of the European Economic Association 8(5):10771103.
Gerber Alan S., Green Donald P.Larimer Christopher W.. 2008. ‘Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment’. American Political Science Review 102(1):3348.
Gerber Alan S., Huber Gregory A., Doherty David, Dowling Conor M.Hill Seth J.. 2013. ‘Do Perceptions of Ballot Secrecy Influence Turnout? Results from a Field Experiment’. American Journal of Political Science forthcoming.
Gronke Paul, Galanes-Rosenbaum EvaMiller Peter A.. 2007. ‘Early Voting and Turnout’. PS: Political Science & Politics 40(4):639645.
Gronke Paul, Galanes-Rosenbaum Eva, Miller Peter A.Toffey Daniel. 2008. ‘Convenience Voting’. Annual Review of Political Science 11(1):437455.
Karp Jeffrey A.Banducci Susan A.. 2000. ‘Going Postal: How All-Mail Elections Influence Turnout’. Political Behavior 22:223239.
Kousser ThadMullin Megan. 2007. ‘Does Voting by Mail Increase Participation? Using Matching to Analyze a Natural Experiment’. Political Analysis 15(4):428445.
Larocca RogerKlemanski John S.. 2011. ‘U.S. State Election Reform and Turnout in Presidential Elections’. State Politics and Policy Quarterly 11(1):76101.
Luechinger Simon, Rosinger MyraStutzer Alois. 2007. ‘The Impact of Postal Voting on Participation: Evidence for Switzerland’. Swiss Political Science Review 13:167202.
Magleby David B. 1987. ‘Participation in Mail Ballot Elections’. Western Political Quarterly 40(1):7991.
Malhotra NeilMeredith Marc. 2011. ‘Convenience Voting Can Change Election Outcomes’. Election Law Journal 10(3):227253.
Monroe Nathan W.Sylvester Dari E.. 2011. ‘Who Converts to Vote-By-Mail? Evidence From a Field Experiment’. Election Law Journal 10(1):1535.
Richey Sean. 2008. ‘Voting by Mail: Turnout and Institutional Reform in Oregon’. Social Science Quarterly 89(4):902915.
Shaw Daron R. 2006. The Race to 270: The Electoral College and the Campaign Strategies of 2000 and 2004. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Southwell Priscilla L. 2009. ‘Analysis of The Turnout Effects of Vote By Mail Elections, 1980–2007’. The Social Science Journal 46:211217.
Southwell Priscilla L.Burchett Justin I.. 1997. ‘Survey of Vote-by-Mail Senate Election in the State of Oregon’. PS: Political Science & Politics 30(1):5357.
Southwell Priscilla L.Burchett Justin I.. 2000a. ‘Does Changing the Rules Change the Players? The Effect of All-Mail Elections on the Composition of the Electorate’. Social Science Quarterly 81(3):837845.
Southwell Priscilla L.Burchett Justin I.. 2000b. ‘The Effect of All-mail Elections on Voter Turnout’. American Politics Research 28(1):7279.
Wand Jonathan N., Shotts Kenneth W., Sekhon Jasjeet S., Mebane Walter R., Herron Michael C.Brady Henry E.. 2001. ‘The Butterfly Did It: The Aberrant Vote for Buchanan in Palm Beach County, Florida’. American Political Science Review 95:793810.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
  • URL: /core/journals/political-science-research-and-methods
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
UNKNOWN
Supplementary Materials

Gerber et al. Datasets
Datasets

 Unknown

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 17
Total number of PDF views: 55 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 598 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.