The effects of Election Day vote centers on voter experiences

Working Paper No.: 
Date Published: 
Greg Vonnahme
University of Alabama
Robert M. Stein

1. Introduction

Election Day vote centers, first adopted in Larimer County, Colorado in 2003, were used in 21 Colorado counties and a number of counties in Texas and Indiana in the 2008 Presidential Election. Election Day vote centers are intended to make Election Day voting more convenient and accessible and thereby increase voter turnout, especially
among infrequent voters. The evidence to date demonstrates that vote centers have had a significant and positive effect on voter turnout, especially among infrequent voters (Stein and Vonnahme 2008; 2009). Why?

In this paper we examine how the attributes of Election Day vote centers shape the voting experience. Our focus is on how different voting systems effect voter satisfaction with voting technology; paper versus direct recorded electronic (DRE) voting machine, the places at which voters vote, the number of races voters ballot in, voter
confidence that their ballot will be counted accurately and the time voters spend waiting to vote and to cast their vote. Our central thesis is that voting, especially for the first time and infrequent voters is an ‘acquired taste.” Voters rely on a learning mechanism for determining the likely costs and benefits of voting when deciding whether or not to vote.

Positive voting experiences reinforce and increase the likelihood that the satisfied voter will vote again.

Three questions motivate our research:

1. Do vote centers provide the voter a better voting experience?
2. Why do vote centers provide a better voting experience?
3. Is the effect of vote centers on the voter’s experience different for frequent and infrequent voters?

Section 2 reviews current research on convenience voting and explicates the reasons underlying the adoption of Election Day vote centers and how this method of voting might influence voter satisfaction and voter turnout. Section 3 and 4 presents a research design and measures for testing our hypotheses about how vote centers effect
voter satisfaction and participation. We provide the estimation results in section 5 drawing on an exit poll conducted on Election Day 2008 in Colorado. We conclude with a discussion of how experiences with Election Day vote centers might be used in precinct voting systems.

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