Three New Articles on Convenience Voting and Participation

The latest issue of Election Law Journal includes three interesting articles on mobile polling, permanent vote-by-mail, all-mail voting, and the impact of convenience voting innovations on voter turnout.

The first article, by Jason Karlawish, Charlie Sabatino, Deborah Markowitz, Jonathan Rubright, Ellen Klem, and Robert Boruch, is titled “Bringing the Vote to Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities: A Study of the Benefits and Challenges of Mobile Polling.” It evaluates the advantages and challenges of mobile polling for increasing voter access, ensuring proper assistance, and improving the ability to vote independently, for senior citizens living in long-term care facilities. Here is part of the abstract:

One solution to the problems of voting in long-term care is mobile polling, a process whereby election officials bring the ballot to residents of long-term care facilities, provide voters assistance when needed, and register voters as well. This study compared mobile polling to voting as usual in selected nursing homes in the State of Vermont during the U.S. 2008 general election. Results show that among election officials and nursing homes willing to try mobile polling, it is feasible and generally well accepted by long-term care staff, residents, and election officials; reduces concerns of voter fraud and manipulation; and enhances residents’ dignity and rights.

For a recent press release regarding this article, see Paul’s previous post.

The second article, by Nathan Monroe and Dari Sylvester, is titled “Who Converts to Vote-By-Mail? Evidence From a Field Experiment.” It reports the results of a field experiment conducted in San Joaquin County, California, designed to measure the effectiveness of postcards facilitating conversion to permanent vote-by-mail (VBM) status. Here is an extract from the introduction:

In this article, we begin unpacking the dynamics behind the VBM choice.

  • After a state or county adopts VBM, will lowering the cost of signing up convert significant numbers of new voters to become permanent VBM voters?
  • When VBM does convert new voters, what types of citizens will be most likely to adopt VBM through the low-cost option?

To answer these questions, we combined a field experiment with supplemental survey research. […] We found that citizens who received information on VBM and opportunities to become VBM voters—in the form of already-filled-out postcards—are more likely to convert to that voting method […], and found that traditionally ‘high propensity’ voting groups were more responsive to the postcard.

The third article, by Toby James, is titled “Fewer Costs, More Votes? United Kingdom Innovations in Election Administration 2000–2007 and the Effect on Voter Turnout.” It offers a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of election administration pilots, conducted in the United Kingdom between 2000 and 2007, on voter turnout. Some of the convenience voting and election-security reforms considered in the article include: all-mail voting, by-mail voting on demand, Internet voting, extended voting hours, individual registration, and photographic identification requirements. Here is an extract from the introduction:

This article draws from local and strategic evaluations by the U.K. Electoral Commission, reports from local authorities, and research by independent academics to provide an overall assessment of what can be learned, if anything, about the causes of non-participation in elections from the Labour government’s reforms. The article argues that poor experimental design makes solid inferences difficult, but there is some evidence that election administration affects levels of participation in ways not fully appreciated in the existing British literature. The research findings broadly mirror those from the U.S. literature, suggesting some degree of external validity. This provides a reason to test the effects of variations in election administration in non-Anglo-American settings.