Within polling places, does the scarcity of voting machines cause
longer lines and thereby dissuade some people from voting? Are voting
machines scarce in some areas because turnout would be low, irrespective
of the availability of voting machines? In Ohio in the aftermath of the
2004 presidential election, the answers to these questions carried very
real and significant political stakes. Consider the following from
Franklin County, the second most populous county in the state. In
precincts where voting machines were plentiful (i.e., where there were
fewer registrants per available voting machine), turnout was especially
high and John Kerry's share of the presidential vote was low. In
contrast, in areas of machine scarcity (i.e., precincts with many
registrants per available voting machine), turnout was lower and
Kerry's vote share was higher. These relationships are shown in
Figures 1A and 1B. Given the strong association between machine
availability and the Kerry vote, if machine (un)availability was a cause
of (low) turnout, then Kerry may very well have received fewer votes than
he would have had more machines been available or had the distribution of
available machines been less skewed toward precincts that were more
supportive of George W. Bush.
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