Absentee voting doesn’t increase turnout

Robyn Schwab Aaron ’07

A research study by Assistant Professor of Politics Hans Hassell shows that campaign efforts to get voters to use absentee voting options don’t necessarily increase voter turnout.

Hassell worked with a Republican Party organization in Minnesota to test a common campaign theory that when campaigns ask people to vote early and vote absentee, it can increase participation.

“I worked with them to try to generate a couple of tests, trying to see if we could increase turnout using an absentee ballot process,” Hassell said. “A couple of years ago Minnesota passed a bill giving voters the ability to vote absentee by mail, thinking, theoretically, that they were making it easier for voters and making it easier for them to turn out. What we actually found is that when campaigns encourage people to vote absentee to try to get more people to vote, the increase in actual turnout is miniscule, meaning it probably didn’t have an overall effect.”

Hassell said voters did opt to change how they cast their ballot but not whether they voted, meaning more people voted by mail compared to in-person in his study. The research was published in the journal Research & Politics in February.