Public Policy

State Policies and the US Election Franchise: A Multistage Approach



Studies that examine the impacts of state policies on voter participation tend to focus on one of five stages: eligibility, registration, turnout, balloting, and counting. We argue that because a policy can shape outcomes at multiple stages, this approach of assessing impacts on a single stage offers a limited view of how state policies and practices affect voters as they move through the election franchise. Using nationwide county-level data for presidential elections between 2008 and 2016, we employ a new, multistage approach to estimate the impacts of five categories of policies: eligibility restrictions, voter registration, convenience voting, voter identification, and provisional balloting. We show that in three of the five areas, state policies influenced two or three stages at once. We find persistent downstream effects, where policies hypothesized to influence turnout also influence balloting.


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