"The Effects of Voting Systems on Voter Participation"

The VTP, as part of our RPEAVT working paper series, recently made a classic available, by Herb Asher, Russell Schussler, and Peg Rosenfield, “The Effect of Voting Systems on Voter Participation.” Charles Stewart wrote a brief description of the importance of this 1982 paper:

Herb Asher’s 1982 conference paper, “The Effect of Voting Systems on Voter Participation,” has a distinguished place in the literature of political science about voting technologies. Three things stand out about this work. First, it is among the earliest research within the discipline about the performance of voting technologies and its role in influencing elections. Second, it examines as a dependent variable what we would call the “residual vote,” although here it is called “fall-off.” Third, the methodology is in the spirit of a “natural experiment,” an important feature in voting technology research that, alas, still eludes much of the field.

The occasion of the paper was the 1978 Ohio gubernatorial election, which witnessed an anomalous drop in the number of votes cast for governor, in comparison to other statewide races. As Asher explains in the paper, the research arose from the Secretary of State’s office puzzling over what was behind this anomaly. Their inability to solve the puzzle led to a phone call to the other side of Columbus, and the rest is history. The story behind the genesis of this study points out how the rare collaboration between academics interested in the machinery (pun intended) of elections and election officials can yield important knowledge both to the academy and to election administrators.

Because this paper was given as a conference paper, but never published, its virtues have been hidden under a bushel from those interested in the role of voting technologies in elections. The Voting Technology Project is delighted that Professor Asher has agreed to our publishing this classic in our series of Research Papers on Election Administration and Voting Technology.

Charles Stewart III

February 4, 2011

It’s a classic, and well worth reading.

And if anyone out there knows of other classics that the VTP should archive and disseminate, let us know.