New research on the effects of voter registration deadlines

Recently in Political Analysis, a journal that I co-edit with my Caltech colleague Jonathan Katz, we published an interesting paper that studies the effects of voter registration deadlines using a novel approach. This paper, authored by Alex Street, Thomas A. Murray, John Blitzer, and Rajan S. Patel, is titled “Estimating Voter Registration Deadline Effects with Web Search Data.” The paper is available open access online, and here’s the abstract. It’s worth a read, both the results and the approach are quite interesting.

“Electoral rules have the potential to affect the size and composition of the voting public. Yet scholars disagree over whether requiring voters to register well in advance of Election Day reduces turnout. We present a new approach, using web searches for “voter registration” to measure interest in registering, both before and after registration deadlines for the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Many Americans sought information on “voter registration” even after the deadline in their state had passed. Combining web search data with evidence on the timing of registration for 80 million Americans, we model the relationship between search and registration. Extrapolating this relationship to the post-deadline period, we estimate that an additional 3–4 million Americans would have registered in time to vote, if deadlines had been extended to Election Day. We test our approach by predicting out of sample and with historical data. Web search data provide new opportunities to measure and study information-seeking behavior.”