ArticlePublisher preview available

Reprecincting and Voting Behavior

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract and Figures

Despite the expansion of convenience voting across the American states, millions of voters continue to cast ballots at their local precincts on Election Day. We argue that those registered voters who are reassigned to a different Election Day polling place prior to an election are less likely to turn out to vote than those assigned to vote at the same precinct location, as a new precinct location incurs both search and transportation costs on reassigned voters. Utilizing voter file data and precinct shape files from Manatee County, Florida, from before and after the 2014 General Election, we demonstrate that the redrawing of precinct boundaries and the designation of Election Day polling places is not a purely technical matter for local election administrators, but may affect voter turnout of some registered voters more than others. Controlling for a host of demographic, partisan, vote history, and geospatial factors, we find significantly lower turnout among registered voters who were reassigned to a new Election Day precinct compared to those who were not, an effect not equally offset by those voters turning to other available modes of voting (either early in-person or absentee). All else equal, we find that registered Hispanic voters were significantly more likely to abstain from voting as a result of being reassigned than any other racial group.
This content is subject to copyright. Terms and conditions apply.
ORIGINAL PAPER
Reprecincting and Voting Behavior
Brian Amos
1
Daniel A. Smith
1
Casey Ste. Claire
1
Published online: 8 June 2016
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media New York 2016
Abstract Despite the expansion of convenience voting across the American states,
millions of voters continue to cast ballots at their local precincts on Election Day.
We argue that those registered voters who are reassigned to a different Election Day
polling place prior to an election are less likely to turn out to vote than those
assigned to vote at the same precinct location, as a new precinct location incurs both
search and transportation costs on reassigned voters. Utilizing voter file data and
precinct shape files from Manatee County, Florida, from before and after the 2014
General Election, we demonstrate that the redrawing of precinct boundaries and the
designation of Election Day polling places is not a purely technical matter for local
election administrators, but may affect voter turnout of some registered voters more
than others. Controlling for a host of demographic, partisan, vote history, and
geospatial factors, we find significantly lower turnout among registered voters who
were reassigned to a new Election Day precinct compared to those who were not, an
effect not equally offset by those voters turning to other available modes of voting
(either early in-person or absentee). All else equal, we find that registered Hispanic
voters were significantly more likely to abstain from voting as a result of being
reassigned than any other racial group.
Keywords Voter turnout Precincts Gerrymandering Elections Florida
Election Administration
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11109-016-9350-z)
contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
&Daniel A. Smith
dasmith@ufl.edu
1
Department of Political Science, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-7325, USA
123
Polit Behav (2017) 39:133–156
DOI 10.1007/s11109-016-9350-z
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... Brady and McNulty [2011] find that potential voters are two percentage points less likely to cast an in-person ballot on Election Day when they were assigned to vote at a new polling place that was equally far from their house. Two percentage points represents the median estimated reduction in in-person voting on Election Day from a polling place change in existing work, with McNulty et al. [2009] and Amos et al. [2017] finding more than a twopercentage point decline, and Yoder [2018] and Clinton et al. [2019] finding less. Cantoni [2020] also shows that potential voters who live in the same neighborhood are less likely to vote when the polling place that they are assigned to vote at on Election Day is further from their residence. ...
... In contrast, Brady and McNulty [2011] find that about 60 percent of the potential voters who were dissuaded from voting in-person on Election Day because of higher search costs abstained, with the other 40 percent of shifting to mail ballots. Likewise, Amos et al. [2017] find that about 60 percent of the potential voters who were dissuaded from voting in-person on Election Day because of higher search costs abstained, with the other 40 percent of shifting to early in-person voting or mail balloting. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
A potential voter must incur a number of costs in order to successfully cast an in-person ballot, including the costs associated with identifying and traveling to a polling place. In order to investigate how these costs affect voting behavior, we introduce two quasi-experimental designs that can be used to study how the political participation of registered voters is affected by differences in the relative distance that registrants must travel to their assigned Election Day polling place and whether their polling place remains at the same location as in a previous election. Our designs make comparisons of registrants who live on the same residential block, but are assigned to vote at different polling places. We find that living farther from a polling place and being assigned to a new polling place reduce in-person Election Day voting, but that registrants largely offset for this by casting more early in-person and mail ballots.
... It is impossible to determine whether certain election laws or administrative rules have discriminatory efforts without public access to election administration records. In Florida alone, scholars have used PRRs to assess potential disparate effects of administrative changes on various groups of voters, including who is able to register to vote (Herron & Smith, 2013;Merivaki, 2019;Shino & Smith, 2018), whether citizens are improperly removed from the rolls (Biggers & Smith, 2020), which voters have longer wait times at the polls (David et al., 2020;Herron & Smith, 2015), who turns out when early voting is diminished or polling locations are moved (Amos et al., 2017;Herron & Smith, 2014), who casts provisional ballots (Merivaki & Smith, 2016), and who has their mail ballots rejected (Baringer et al., 2020). Guaranteeing citizens the full protection of their voting rights hinges on the public availability of election administrative data. 2 ...
Article
Is there an optimum method to elicit public records from election officials? Using a field experiment that randomly assigned the wording and email domains used to solicit public records, we test how county election offices respond to requests under given conditions. We find that the response rates of Florida’s 67 Supervisors of Elections (SOE) to a request for election administration data and election protocols after the 2018 General Election varies considerably, but that the formality of the language and the email domain randomly assigned only marginally affects the compliance of election officials to abide by the state’s public records statutes. The variance in responses and lack of compliance seems to not be related to who asks for data nor how it is solicited, but rather is idiosyncratic. Despite the largely null findings, our study raises concerns about local election administration and transparency.
... With regard to whether the use of mail ballots leads to a shift in composition of the electorate, many studies of this subject are based on data gathered well before the widespread increase in voting by mail. Some have found that older, partisan, and white registered voters, as well as those who have cast mail ballots in previous elections, are more likely to vote by mail (Patterson and Caldeira 1985;Oliver 1996;Karp and Banducci 2001;Berinsky, Burns, and Traugott 2001;Hanmer and Traugott 2004;Kousser and Mullin 2007;Bergman and Yates 2011), although others have found evidence of greater heterogeneity in this matter (Barreto et al. 2006;Amos, Smith, and Ste Claire 2017). There are times at which party mobilization efforts can affect the methods with which voters cast their ballots (Michelson 2005;Herron and Smith 2012;Hassell 2017). ...
Article
Natural disasters can uproot peoples’ lives in a matter of minutes, leaving behind immeasurable hardships on the people and places that they strike. We examine the impact on voter turnout of one such force majeure in the days leading up to a midterm election. Leveraging the randomness of a rapidly developing, unpredictable Category 5 hurricane, we assemble an original dataset to examine the effects of Hurricane Michael on voting in Florida in the 2018 General Election. Our study assesses whether counties damaged by Hurricane Michael—as determined by relief policies administered by local election officials—affected voter behavior in 2018. Utilizing Difference-in-Difference (DID) models, we test whether voters registered in counties that were affected by Michael voted at rates comparable to their neighbors that were not directly impacted by the Category 5 hurricane. We also test whether voters in affected counties were more likely to alter their usual methods of voting. Our findings—that turnout was lower among those directly impacted by the storm but that early in-person voting helped to mitigate the effects—lend insight into how election administration decisions can offset the deleterious effects of a catastrophic event.
Article
Polling place consolidation makes administering voting easier but scholars question the effect on turnout. Vote centers (which consolidate polling locations) are theoretically less expensive to administer and convenient for many voters, but less is known about the impacts on specific racial communities or across election cycles. Using Texas’ registered voters’ list from the Secretary of State’s Voting Division, this paper uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to calculate estimated driving distances from each registered voter’s residence to a vote center location. The results show that the displacement of traditional precinct-level voting and the increase in distance between polling locations takes a greater toll on voter turnout for voters in midterm (but not presidential) elections and rural counties with more Latino voters. The implications demonstrate that vote centers can boost turnout in some elections but that the location of vote centers significantly effects turnout among ethnic minorities.
Article
In the United States, drop box mail-in voting has increased, particularly in the all vote by mail (VBM) states of Washington, Colorado, Utah, and Oregon. To assess if drop boxes improve voter turnout, research proxies box treatment by voters’ residence distance to nearest drop box. However, no research has tested the assumption that voters use drop boxes nearest their residence more so than they do other drop boxes. Using individual-level voter data from a 2020 Washington State election, we show that voters are more likely to use the nearest drop box to their residence relative to other drop boxes. In Washington’s 2020 August primary, 52% of drop box voters in our data used their nearest drop box. Moreover, those who either (1) vote by mail, or (2) used a different drop box from the one closest to their residence live further away from their closest drop box. Implications are discussed.
Article
How do changes in Election Day polling place locations affect voter turnout? We study the behavior of more than 2 million eligible voters across three closely-contested presidential elections (2008–2016) in the swing state of North Carolina. Leveraging within-voter variation in polling place location change over time, we demonstrate that polling place changes reduce Election Day voting on average statewide. However, this effect is almost completely offset by substitution into early voting, suggesting that voters, on average, respond to a change in their polling place by choosing to vote early. While there is heterogeneity in these effects by the distance of the polling place change and the race of the affected voter, the fully offsetting substitution into early voting still obtains. We theorize this is because voters whose polling places change location receive notification mailers, offsetting search costs and priming them to think about the election before election day, driving early voting.
Article
Researchers have increasingly paid attention to the impact that the administrative component of elections has on voter behavior. Existing research has focused almost exclusively on the effect that legal changes--such as voter identification laws--have on turnout. This paper extends our understanding of the electoral process by exploring how one aspect of the precinct experience--standing in line to vote--can shape the turnout behavior of voters in subsequent elections. I demonstrate that for every additional hour a voter waits in line to vote, their probability of voting in the subsequent election drops by 1 percentage point. To arrive at these estimates, I analyze vote history files using a combination of exact matching and placebo tests to test the identification assumptions. I then leverage an unusual institutional arrangement in the City of Boston and longitudinal data from Florida to show that the result also holds at the precinct level. The findings in this paper have important policy implications for administrative changes that may impact line length, such as voter identification requirements and precinct consolidation. They also suggest that racial asymmetries in precinct wait times contribute to the gap in turnout rates between white and non-white voters.
Article
Lines at the polls raise the cost of voting and can precipitate unequal treatment of voters. Research on voting lines is nonetheless hampered by a fundamental measurement problem: little is known about the distribution of time voters spend in line prior to casting ballots. We argue that early, in-person voter check-in times allow us identify individuals who waited in line to vote. Drawing on election administrative records from two General Elections in Florida—1,031,179 check-ins from 2012 and 1,846,845 from 2016—we find that minority voters incurred disproportionately long wait times in 2012 and that in-person voters who waited excessively in 2012 had a slightly lower probability—approximately one percent—of turning out to vote in 2016, ceteris paribus. These individuals also had slightly lower turnout probabilities in the 2014 Midterm Election, ceteris paribus. Our results draw attention to the ongoing importance of the administrative features of elections that influence the cost of voting and ultimately the extent to which voters are treated equally.
Article
Full-text available
Over the past 30 years an increasing number of American states have made it more convenient for voters to cast early ballots. Despite the rapid diffusion of what is known as early in-person voting and praise for this practice by voting rights advocates and election administrators alike, a new Florida law in 2011 truncated the state's early voting period from a total of 14 days to eight, eliminated early voting on the Sunday immediately preceding Election Day, and reduced the total number of hours that early voting polling stations were required to be open. We assess the effects that these changes might have on Florida voting by analyzing early voting patterns from the 2008 General Election in this state. By merging a Florida voter file with county-level records of approximately 2.6 million early voters, we are able not only to identify which types of voters cast early ballots in the run-up to the 2008 General Election, but also to determine the precise days of the two-week early voting period in which various voter types cast their ballots. We find that Democratic, African American, Hispanic, younger, and first-time voters were disproportionately likely to vote early in 2008 and in particular on weekends, including the final Sunday of early voting. We expect these types of voters to be disproportionately affected by the recent changes to Florida's voting laws that altered the practice of early voting across the state.
Article
Full-text available
We undertake a comprehensive examination of restrictive voter ID legislation in the American states from 2001 through 2012. With a dataset containing approximately one thousand introduced and nearly one hundred adopted voter ID laws, we evaluate the likelihood that a state legislature introduces a restrictive voter ID bill, as well as the likelihood that a state government adopts such a law. Voter ID laws have evolved from a valence issue into a partisan battle, where Republicans defend them as a safeguard against fraud while Democrats indict them as a mechanism of voter suppression. However, voter ID legislation is not uniform across the states; not all Republican-controlled legislatures have pushed for more restrictive voter ID laws. Instead, our findings show it is a combination of partisan control and the electoral context that drives enactment of such measures. While the prevalence of Republican lawmakers strongly and positively influences the adoption of voter ID laws in electorally competitive states, its effect is significantly weaker in electorally uncompetitive states. Republicans preside over an electoral coalition that is declining in size; where elections are competitive, the furtherance of restrictive voter ID laws is a means of maintaining Republican support while curtailing Democratic electoral gains.
Article
Full-text available
In mid-2011, the Florida legislature reduced the state’s early voting period from fourteen days to eight and eliminated the final Sunday of early voting. We compare observed voting patterns in 2012 with those in the 2008 General Election and find that racial/ethnic minorities, registered Democrats, and those without party affiliation had significant early voting participation drops and that voters who cast ballots on the final Sunday in 2008 were disproportionately unlikely to cast a valid ballot in 2012. Florida’s decision to truncate early voting may have diminished participation rates of those already least likely to vote.
Book
The Politics of Voter Suppression arrives in time to assess actual practices at the polls this fall and to reengage with debates about voter suppression tactics such as requiring specific forms of identification. Tova Andrea Wang examines the history of how U.S. election reforms have been manipulated for partisan advantage and establishes a new framework for analyzing current laws and policies. The tactics that have been employed to suppress voting in recent elections are not novel, she finds, but rather build upon the strategies used by a variety of actors going back nearly a century and a half. This continuity, along with the shift to a Republican domination of voter suppression efforts for the past fifty years, should inform what we think about reform policy today. Wang argues that activities that suppress voting are almost always illegitimate, while reforms that increase participation are nearly always legitimate. In short, use and abuse of election laws and policies to suppress votes has obvious detrimental impacts on democracy itself. Such activities are also harmful because of their direct impacts on actual election outcomes. Wang regards as beneficial any legal effort to increase the number of Americans involved in the electoral system. This includes efforts that are focused on improving voter turnout among certain populations typically regarded as supporting one party, as long as the methods and means for boosting participation are open to all. Wang identifies and describes a number of specific legitimate and positive reforms that will increase voter turnout.
Article
Much recent theorizing about the utility of voting concludes that voting is an irrational act in that it usually costs more to vote than one can expect to get in return. 1 This conclusion is doubtless disconcerting ideologically to democrats; but ideological embarrassment is not our interest here. Rather we are concerned with an apparent paradox in the theory. The writers who constructed these analyses were engaged in an endeavor to explain political behavior with a calculus of rational choice; yet they were led by their argument to the conclusion that voting, the fundamental political act, is typically irrational. We find this conflict between purpose and conclusion bizarre but not nearly so bizarre as a non-explanatory theory: The function of theory is to explain behavior and it is certainly no explanation to assign a sizeable part of politics to the mysterious and inexplicable world of the irrational. 2 This essay is, therefore, an effort to reinterpret the voting calculus so that it can fit comfortably into a rationalistic theory of political behavior. We describe a calculus of voting from which one infers that it is reasonable for those who vote to do so and also that it is equally reasonable for those who do not vote not to do so. Furthermore we present empirical evidence that citizens actually behave as if they employed this calculus. 3
Article
In 2000, just a few hundred votes out of millions cast in the state of Florida separated Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush from his Democratic opponent, Al Gore. The outcome of the election rested on Florida's 25 electoral votes, and legal wrangling continued for 36 days. Then, abruptly, one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history, Bush v. Gore, cut short the battle. Since the Florida debacle we have witnessed a partisan war over election rules. Election litigation has skyrocketed, and election time brings out inevitable accusations by political partisans of voter fraud and voter suppression. These allegations have shaken public confidence, as campaigns deploy "armies of lawyers" and the partisan press revs up when elections are expected to be close and the stakes are high. Richard L. Hasen, a respected authority on election law, chronicles and analyzes the battles over election rules from 2000 to the present. From a nonpartisan standpoint he explores the rising number of election-related lawsuits and charges of voter fraud as well as the decline of public confidence in fair results. He explains why future election disputes will be worse than previous ones-more acrimonious, more distorted by unsubstantiated allegations, and amplified by social media. No reader will fail to conclude with Hasen that election reform is an urgent priority, one that demands the attention of conscientious citizens and their elected representatives.
Article
Though the courts have been extremely active in interpreting the rules of the electoral game, this role is misunderstood and understudied-as, in many cases, are the rules themselves. Law and Election Politics illustrates how election laws and electoral politics are intertwined, analyzing the rules of the game and some of the most important-and most controversial-decisions the courts have made on a variety of election-related subjects. More than a typical law book that summarizes cases, Mathew Streb has assembled an outstanding group of scholars to place electoral laws and the courts' rulings on those laws in the context of electoral politics. They comprehensively cover the range of topics important to election law-campaign finance, political parties, campaigning, redistricting, judicial elections, the Internet, voting machines, voter identification, ballot access, and direct democracy. This is an essential resource both for students of the electoral process and scholars of election law and election reform.
Article
Recent elections have witnessed substantial debate regarding the degree to which state governments facilitate access to the polls. Despite this newfound interest, however, many of the major reforms aimed at increasing voting convenience (i.e., early voting and no-excuse absentee voting) were implemented over the past four decades. Although numerous studies examine their consequences (on turnout, the composition of the electorate, and/or electoral outcomes), we know significantly less about the factors leading to the initial adoption of these policies. We attempt to provide insights into such motivations using event history analysis to identify the impact of political and demographic considerations, as well as diffusion mechanisms, on which states opted for easier ballot access. We find that adoption responded to some factors signaling the necessity of greater voting convenience in the state, and that partisanship influenced the enactment of early voting but not no-excuse absentee voting procedures.