Paul Gronke and Charles Stewart presented their paper on early voting in Florida at the Midwest Political Science Association conference the other week in Chicago. The paper highlights the effects restrictions to early voting had on voters in Florida in 2012.
In 2011, the State of Florida proposed a series of changes in how it conducts elections. In particular, the early voting period was reduced from 14 days to 8 days, eliminating the final Sunday of early in-person voting. In this paper, they analyze the impact of these changes on the Florida early electorate using statewide voter registration, voter history, and county early voting files, tracking the voting behavior of Floridians from 2006 to 2012, with a particular focus on African-Americans.
They demonstrate that while shortening the time of early voting does not appear to have hindered the earliest of early voters, it does appear to have dissuaded turnout among the latest early voters, especially those who previously voted on the final Sunday before Election Day. Voters who vote during “souls to the polls” on this particular Sunday, as well as others who voted on this day, were affected. The following graph shows a comparison of “souls to the polls” efforts in 2008 and 2012.
They further show that there is a racial element to these changes. Voters who faced more congestion and longer lines at the polls as a result of a reduction in early voting days were disproportionately African American. What’s more, African-American voters showed a substantially higher preference for voting on that final Sunday, but this preference is far less evident in 2012 after the changes to the law.
A copy of their paper can be found here.