Convenience Voting Yields Poor Turnout

A new report issued by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate (CSAE) last week suggests that the upcoming election season will yield the lowest midterm primary turnout in history. National turnout in 2010 was down 18 percent for states that held statewide primaries for both major parties, reaffirming RNLA’s findings in its PCEA report that early voting has little to no tangible benefits.

The data shows that eleven states in the study had early in-person voting. Eight of these states had lower turnout than in 2010, six of those being record low turnouts. Of the thirteen states that have a no excuse absentee voting policy, eleven had lower turnout than in 2010, all eleven as record low turnouts. Eight states utilize both early voting and no excuse absentee voting. Six of these states had lower turnout than in 2010, all six as low record turnouts.


Similarly, proponents of Election Day registration have also argued that it will increase turnout. Like convenience voting, the statistics do not prove this. On the contrary, the evidence shows Election Day registration states like Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, all had lower turnout in the 2014 election as compared with 2010.


The report concludes that these policies contribute to low voter turnout. “The data in this report shows that the hope of enhancing turnout by making it easier is the wrong way to approach the disengagement problem and, in some cases, is dangerous. Both no-excuse absentee voting and mail voting have been shown in all elections . . . to hurt turnout.”


Furthermore, the report states that low voter turnout is a self-perpetuating challenge that leads to voter apathy. The cohesion formed by political parties is “being lost. High levels of involvement lessen the chances that . . . politics will be dominated by narrow ideology and interest. Low levels make that result probable.”


CSAE provides insight into the solution. The real problems are found in unclear campaign messages, “scurrilous” attack ads, and an uninformed electorate. Durable revitalization of American democracy will not be solved by procedural quick fixes.” Convenience voting is not even a good Band-Aid for these deep seeded issues.