Absentee Ballot Regimes: Easing Costs or Adding a Step?

Working Paper No.: 
Date Published: 
Jan E. Leighley
American University
Jonathan Nagler

There has been a revolution in voting in the United States in the last 40 years. In 1972 voters in only 2 states had the option to request an absentee ballot without showing cause. In 2008, 27 states allowed voters this opportunity. In 1972 voters in 45 out of 50 states who were voting at a polling place did so on election day. In 2008, voters in 31 states could cast in-person votes on multiple days (not withstanding the suggestion of the constitution that election day is the tuesday after the first monday of November). There are some obvious poltical questions about the impact of these changes. Any time an electoral institution is changed we want to know if this will advantage one particular party or another, generally thru making it harder or easier for partisans of that party to vote. Or, by changing the incentives of parties to mobilize particular voters. In the case of these laws - the most obvious to ask question is whether or not they have a

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