Absentee ballot regimes: Easing costs or adding a step?

Jan E. Leighley, Jonathan Nagler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Introduction There has been a revolution in voting in the United States in the past forty years. In 1972, voters in only two states had the option to request an absentee ballot without showing cause. In 2008, twenty-seven states allowed voters this opportunity. In 1972, voters in forty-five out of fifty states who were voting at a polling place did so on election day. In 2008, voters in thirty-one states could cast in-person votes on multiple days (notwithstanding the statute that designates the Tuesday after the first Monday in November as election day). There are obvious political questions about the impact of these changes. Any time an electoral institution is changed we want to know if this will advantage one particular party or another, generally by making it harder or easier for partisans of that party to vote or by changing the incentives of parties to mobilize particular voters. In the case of these laws, the most obvious question to ask is whether they have affected turnout. If we make “election day” span two weeks rather than one day, we have significantly increased the opportunities people have to vote. Will otherwise nonvoters take advantage of those opportunities, or were they nonvoters by choice: they simply do not want to vote? Much of the existing research suggests that offering additional ways of voting has not raised turnout, but simply shifted the mechanism by which people vote (Stein, 1998; Stein and Garcia-Monet, 1997).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationElection Administration in the United States
Subtitle of host publicationThe State of Reform after Bush v. Gore
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781107264199
ISBN (Print)9781107048638
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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