Recent years have witnessed widespread changes in state voting and registration laws. These include same day registration, automatic voter registration, early voting, mail voting, and no-excuse absentee voting where people mail in their ballots. Most research on these voting reforms has downplayed their effects, showing that they generally benefit educated, older, and more affluent people. This book shows the positive effects that these reforms have on overall voter turnout, and among voters of disadvantaged groups. Specifically, it emphasizes the ways that state governments are making it easier to participate in elections in an effort to strengthen democratic government.
In Accessible Elections, Michael Ritter and Caroline J. Tolbert explore the wide variation from state to state in convenience voting methods and provide new empirical analysis of the beneficial effects of these policies, not only in boosting participation rates overall, but in increasing voter turnout for disadvantaged groups. The authors measure both convenience methods and implementation of the laws, and explore how elections are conducted across the fifty states, where average turnout has varied more than 25 percentage points over the past four decades. The authors also draw on national voter files with millions of cases and vote histories of the same individuals over time in order to show the real effects of election reform and to make a case for how state governments can modernize their electoral practices, increase voter turnout, and make the experience of voting more accessible and equitable. Ritter and Tolbert assert that in the wake of covid-19 and efforts to maintain social distancing, early voting and absentee/mail voting are of particular importance to avoid election-day crowds and ensure equitable elections in states with large populations. With important implications for the 2020 general election and beyond, Accessible Elections underscores how state governments can modernize their electoral procedures to increase voter turnout, address inequalities, and influence campaign and party mobilization strategies.