A number of Northeast states are considering adding or expanding early voting, according to a story in The Hill.
I hope that administrators and legislators in the states make sure they make a decision based on comprehensive and accurate information and not rely on anecdote.
Most importantly, early voting has a complicated relationship to overall voter turnout. Most studies show a small but positive relationship, though one prominent study reports a negative relationship. If you put in more early voting locations, more citizens vote early (but it’s not clear if more voters overall cast a ballot).
Jan Leighley and Jonathan Nagler put it best in a recent blog posting (in the context of voter registration laws): higher turnout depends mostly on parties and candidates, not on changes to voting laws.
The point? New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner is quoted in the story and his statement reflects many common misconceptions about early voting:
“We’re seeing turnout nationally go down in each of the last three elections even as more and more states rush to make it easier to vote by having early voting,”
Misconception 1: there has been no “rush” to add early voting options since 2008. The rate of states adding early voting provisions has slowed substantially as we get down the final 13 holdouts (according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 37 states plus DC offered some form of early voting in 2016, compared to 36 plus DC in 2012, and 34 in 2008).
Misconception 2: turnout has not declined for the last three cycles. Final totals in 2016 appear to be slightly up from 2012 and about 2% lower than 2008.
Misconception 3: national turnout is the best way to understand the impact of state and local laws. National totals disguise enormous variation in turnout between and within states, competitiveness in statewide races, and differences in rules and laws. There is also some scattered evidence that early voting benefits some subpopulations more than others, and this can be overlooked in national and even statewide totals.
The second point in the article is harder to address: the costs of early voting. Michael McDonald suggests that there is resistance to early voting in the Northeast because most of these states administer elections at the township level. McDonald is right to highlight the importance of providing sufficient funding to jurisdictions to conduct elections, regardless of what options are offered (budgets were the most common point of discussion at a recent NCSL gathering).
All I’d add here is that we don’t have a clear sense of how much early voting costs, and whether cost savings can be obtained by strategically reallocating resources between early voting and election day voting (though mis-forecasts of voting turnout can turn disastrous).
The takeaway is that states considering adding early voting options should consider them mostly on the grounds of voter convenience, on how well the options can be adapted to the conditions faced by local jurisdictions, and only lastly on how they may increase overall turnout.
From today’s Oregonian. I don’t even remember giving that quote!
Nice job by Betsey Hammond. More on OMV in the upcoming weeks, watch this space!
The Hawaii Elections Commission is meeting this week to discuss problems with mail-in ballots in recent elections, and discuss an initiative to move to all by-mail elections in the state (this will require action by the legislature).
It’s hard to get details from this short news story, but one thing seems clear: the state needs to require local officials to notify voters when their ballots are invalidated due to missing or non-matching signatures.
Those provisions are in place in Oregon (Statutory reference 254.431 Special procedure for ballots challenged due to failure to sign return envelope or nonmatching signature; public record limitation), and Washington, and Colorado.
It may not have been endorsed yet as a “best practice” by an appropriate committee of election experts, but a follow up if the signature verification fails certainly is standard practice in the three states that conduct elections fully by mail.
A couple quick posts before I head off to class. Let’s start with the most up to date EV rates compared to 2012 rates. These can be heavily influenced by changes in state laws, as in Massachusetts, so interpret with caution.
This one in Green Bay, WI. At least it doesn’t concern Packers fans!
The local clerk cites “partisan advantage,” among other reasons, why she refused to establish a satellite early voting location at University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. It doesn’t help her out when the person requesting the location is a local Green Bay Democrat.
I’ve written in the past about ongoing conflict over an early voting location in Boone, NC, located at the student center at Appalachian State University, where I taught for two years. The ASU location also leaned heavily Democratic relative to the surrounding county, but in the Boone case, the student center also was the hub of a county-wide bus system, had ample parking, and was within easy walking distance of downtown. The county offices, in contrast, had little parking and were served by fewer bus lines.
The ASU location, in summary, was actually an excellent location!
This is a hard one! Not sure what the right call is on this location. Anyone with more information on the ground?
Great Washington Post story by Sari Horowitz on the near impossibility of rigging an election.
This lawsuit just filed in Florida. Apparently, under Florida law (or current interpretation), if you fail to sign an absentee ballot, a postcard (? not clear in the Politico story) citizens have a chance to “cure” the error by coming in, providing proof of identity, and signing an affidavit.
But if your signature doesn’t match, either because it has changed (the focus of the lawsuit) but also presumably if the outside envelope has water damage, your pen leaks, any of a variety of problems, you have no similar chance.
What a strange law. I don’t know the details in every state, but certainly in Oregon and Washington, if there is a problem with your signature (or your vote by mail ballot comes back undeliverable), a postcard is immediately generated and sent to you, and you have until 14 days after Election Day (in Oregon) to correct the error.
Florida already has a system in place to “cure” one set of ballots. What possible policy rationale is there for denying this to the relatively small number of ballots where signatures don’t match?
Great story by Nate Cohn in the New York Times on different demographic estimates of the electorate, features extensive quotes from election science scholars Michael McDonald and Bernard Fraga. Perhaps we can even claim Yair Ghitza as a fellow traveller?
Here’s a nice followup to the article I just posted. It describes a 10 year followup to a Democracy Fellows program at Wake Forest University.
Our analysis of both the quantitative and qualitative data revealed that there continue to be significant differences between the Democracy Fellows and the class cohort. Although both groups dislike the degree of political polarization they encounter in their daily lives, the fellows continue to be more engaged in the political process than does the class cohort.
Senate bill 8582, introduced 11/18/2015 in the New York legislature, would provide for early in-person voting in the Empire State.
I’ve talked to NY state legislators before, but not about this legislation. It does contain some useful provisions that I often recommend, including:
- A population based floor (but no ceiling) on the number of early voting locations
- Allows for early voting “vote centers” in the City of New York (not county based)
- An early voting period that includes two weekends and requires some Saturday and Sunday voting, and requires at least one early voting location in each county to stay open until 8 in the evening
Early voting locations are also subject to other location provisions, assuring that not just numbers, but accessibility will be taken into account:
POLLING PLACES FOR EARLY VOTING SHALL BE LOCATED TO ENSURE, TO THE 11 EXTENT PRACTICABLE, THAT ELIGIBLE VOTERS HAVE ADEQUATE EQUITABLE ACCESS, 12 TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION POPULATION DENSITY, TRAVEL TIME TO THE POLLING 13 PLACE, PROXIMITY TO OTHER LOCATIONS OR COMMONLY USED TRANSPORTATION 14 ROUTES AND SUCH OTHER FACTORS THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS OF THE COUNTY OR 15 THE CITY OF NEW YORK DEEMS APPROPRIATE.