Why Vote in Person in a Pandemic? Using Machine Learning to Predict Voting Methods

28 November 2022, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


What spurs voters to vote in person, despite an established universal vote-by-mail (VBM) system and a once-in-a-century pandemic? We explore this question with official voter data from Colorado, a vote-by-mail state since 2013, but where 6% of voters still vote in person. Using multiclass classification, we analyze (1) the choice between voting by mail (VBM), voting in person, and not voting in the 2020 general election, and (2) the choice to switch to in-person voting despite having used VBM in previous cycles. The results suggest that the choice of voting modes is mainly habitual, and local variations of COVID-19 and demographics hardly mattered. Notably, Republican partisanship plays an important role in predicting "switchers" to in-person voting; indeed, the probability of switching to in-person voting was 5.2% conditional on being a Republican as opposed to 1.9% conditional on being a Democrat.


election administration
voting behavior
political behavior
voting mode
vote by mail
2020 elections
all mail voting

Supplementary materials

Online Appendices
Online Appendices for Why Vote in Person in a Pandemic? Using Machine Learning to Predict Voting Methods


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.