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When Boundaries Collide: Constructing a Database of Election and Census Data

We use a lot of geospatial data to describe and understand the world. How best to combine data from two databases when the geographic boundaries don’t perfectly align? Former UF Political Science doctoral student, Brian Amos (Visiting Assistant Professor at University of North Florida), Professor Michael McDonald, and former post-doctoral fellow Russell Watkins propose a new method of combining election and census data in this article appearing in a Public Opinion Quarterly special issue on advances in survey methodology.

Reprecincting and Voting Behavior

Despite the expansion of convenience voting across the American states, millions of voters continue to cast ballots at their local precincts on Election Day. Professor Smith, Dr. Brian Amos, and former UF undergraduate student Casey Ste Claire (now a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley), argue that 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 information and transportation costs. In an article published in Political Behavior, they utilize voter file data and precinct shape files from Manatee County, Florida, from before and after the 2014 General Election, to 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.

Timing the Habit: Voter Registration and Turnout

Does registration timing impact whether an individual becomes a habitual voter? UF PhD candidate Enrijeta Shino and Professor Smith argue that those registering in near proximity to a presidential election are more likely to vote in the upcoming election compared to those who register at other times during an election cycle because they seek an immediate return on their investment, but they are less likely to become habituated to vote in subsequent mid-term and primary elections. They suggest that this is because last-minute registrants, many of whom were registered through voter registration drives, were not focused on long-term electoral payoffs. Leveraging Florida’s statewide voter files, Dr. Smith and Ms. Shino use logistic regression and propensity score weighting with county fixed-effects to evaluate if the timing of voter registration has significant short- and long-term turnout effects in high- and low-salience elections, controlling for party registration and an array of demographic factors. They find that the timing of registration does affect turnout, as last-minute registrants are not equally likely to vote in ensuing elections.

Early Voting Changes and Voter Turnout: North Carolina in the 2016 General Election

Do changes in electoral administration affect turnout? Leveraging alterations to early voting locations prior to the 2016 General Election in North Carolina, Rutgers Professor Hannah Walker, Dartmouth Professor Michael Herron, and Professor Smith examines how changes to early in-person (EIP) voting across North Carolina’s 100 counties affected turnout among various groups in the state. The patchwork of election practices across the state provided them with a set of natural experiments to study the effect of changes in early voting hours on voter turnout. Drawing on individual-level voting records from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, their research design matches voters on race, party, and geography. They find little evidence that changes to early opportunities in North Carolina had uniform effects on voter turnout. Nonetheless, they do identify areas in the presidential battleground state where voters appear to have reacted to local changes in early voting availability, albeit not always in directions consistent with the existing literature. They suspect that effects of changes to early voting rules are conditional on local conditions, and future research on the effects of election law changes on turnout should explore these conditions in detail.