Disparities in Democracy: The Causes and Consequences of Polling Place Practices and Conditions
Doctor of Philosophy
Elections are the method by which we translate public preferences into policy. For most Americans, the act of voting is the sole method by which they are able to place themselves within the American body politic. Yet so little is known about how Americans perceive the act of voting itself. Scan research has been conducted as to how Americans interact with the polling place, and the potential for downstream effects for political behavior. In this dissertation, I ask what impact the logistics and conditions of voting have on voter behavior. I present three empirical studies that investigate various aspects of election administration. In Chapter 2 I examine the circumstances under which people are likely to leave the check-in line at the polling place before casting a ballot. I find that long lines lead to higher incidence of people leaving the check-in line at the polling place before casting a ballot, however, voters in majority-Black precincts tend to leave the check-in line at higher rates despite having shorter lines. In Chapter 3, I study whether those who cast their ballots at a “vote center” rather than a precinct polling place had a better voting experience. I find that those who voted at vote centers had more negative experiences. Finally, in Chapter 4, I study the impact of vote-by-mail on county expenditures for election administration. I find that vote-by-mail reduced expenditures for election administration overall, however, disparities exist in how much money per voter is spent based on demographic composition of the county. I discuss key takeaways and potential future research in Chapter 5.
American politics; elections; election administration; voting