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Early Voting and Turnout

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 October 2007

Paul Gronke
Reed College
Eva Galanes-Rosenbaum
Reed College
Peter A. Miller
Reed College


Early or convenience voting—understood in this context to be relaxed administrative rules and procedures by which citizens can cast a ballot at a time and place other than the precinct on Election Day—is a popular candidate for election reformers. Typically, reformers argue that maximization of turnout is a primary goal, and reducing barriers between voters and the polls is an important method for achieving higher turnout. Arguments in favor of voting by mail, early in-person voting, and relaxed absentee requirements share this characteristic. While there are good theoretical reasons, drawn primarily from the rational choice tradition, to believe that early voting reforms should increase turnout, the empirical literature has found decidedly mixed results. While one prominent study suggests that voting by mail is associated with a 10% increase in turnout, other studies find smaller—but still statistically significant—increases in turnout associated with other convenience voting methods.This work is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the AEI/Brookings Election Reform Project, and the Charles McKinley Fund of Reed College. Thanks to Caroline Tolbert and Daniel Smith for sharing data with us, and to David Magleby for comments on an earlier version of this paper. All responsibility for interpretations lay with the authors.

© 2007 The American Political Science Association

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